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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

MLL Expansion/Relocation Part 4

Originally I intended to have four teams in Part 3 like I did in Part 2. But since the New York section became so long winded and because I decided to describe the playoff system required to handle the unbalanced expansion, I decided to move teams 15 and 16 to a new post. Now that you learned by plan to handle the lopsided table, forget it. The next wave of expansion wipes all of that out...

2016 - The Gateway to the West

1. (Phoenix) Arizona Scorpions - Phoenix (technically Glendale) was once the home of the NLL's Sting. After closing their doors in 2008, the team permanently shut down last season. Ownership and arena issues led to this decision. The same owners later unload the NHL's coyotes...

Professional lacrosse returns to Phoenix via Major League Lacrosse. Taking inspiration from the former indoor team, the new franchise assumes a new Scorpion logo in virtually the same colors. With the more appealing "Scorpions" name, the city's MLL club will appeal to the area's massive lax community.

The Arizona State Sun Devils lacrosse team is one of the most respected MCLA programs in the country and will produce MLL-calibre players. Grand Canyon University fields an NCAA Division II lax program that also has the potential to create professional laxers. Having a collegiate pipeline gives the Scorpions the opportunity to build strong ties to the local community and cement the team in the fans' hearts.

Unfortunately the city's biggest hindrance at the moment is the lack of a suitable stadium. Sure there are two world class football stadiums - Sun Devil and University of Phoenix - but neither would be ideal venues for lax. To correct this I see four possible scenarios:
  1. Upgrade the field and seating capacity of GCU's Soccer Field; it currently holds a paltry 1,000 fans.
  2. Tarp off a section of one of the big stadiums; it is possible that the team owners could negotiate a reasonable rental fee/use deal.
  3. By 2016 Phoenix could be well on its way to hosting either a MLS or NASL franchise; either should have a smaller soccer stadium.
  4. Use a reasonably sized high school football stadium; this is the least favorable option as it limits alcohol sales and reeks of amateurism.

2. St. Louis Gatekeepers - Originally I had written "Saints" as the team but decided that was lame and generic. Gatekeepers reflects the city's long held nicknames - "Gateway to the West" and "Gateway City." Of course the Gateway Arch would figure prominently into the team's identity, as would the Fleur-de-lis. Their primary colors would be blue and gold, in keeping with the traditions set by the Blues and Rams; blue and yellow are also important elements in the city's flag and the royal colors of its namesake.

Following the precedent set by many of the other expansion franchises, the Gatekeepers will play in a soccer stadium. The metro currently boasts the Anheuser-Busch Center, home of AC St. Louis. The 6000 seat facility would no doubt be a good fit for the lax team as well; youth and club lacrosse is currently played there. There is also talk about a second soccer stadium across the Mississippi River in Collinsville, IL should an MLS expansion team be granted.

As one of the strongest bastions of lacrosse in the Midwest, St. Louis is a no-brainer. With the built-in rivalry with Chicago, this team could be an early success at the gate. Drawing players from the strong MCLA program at Lindenwood, as well as the many other MCLA programs in Missouri, would give the Gatekeepers a chance at local talent. In-state players will provide better connections with the fans.

The playoff system becomes balanced once again. Both teams join the Western Division bringing that side to eight teams: St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, LA, Seattle, San Jose, and Denver. The Eastern Division continues with its eight teams: New York, Long Island, Boston, Rochester, Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

    2018 - The Great White North

    1. (Minneaoplis) Minnesota Bobcats - With its high school leagues already turning out NLL players and the Swarm proving highly successful at the gate, adding a MLL team in the Twin Cities just makes sense. As field is the dominant version of lacrosse, the team would catch on quickly and could work with the Swarm to develop strong development camps. This also opens the door to many players featuring on both teams' rosters.

    Like St. Louis and Arizona, Minnesota is ripe with strong MCLA programs. The University of Minnesota-Duluth is consistently ranked in the league's top 10. Some of the high school varsity programs break the Laxpower national top 500 and much of the rest are in the top 1000. Even several high school club programs are ranked in the top 1000 (there are over 3030 teams registered and ranked at Laxpower). With that much talent, it is not hard to imagine that many future Bobcats will come from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

    Since there is no continuity between the metro's teams, the Bobcats are not bound by a specific color scheme. To compliment their team name, the Bobcats would wear Vegas gold, black, and white. Maroon would be used as an accent color.

    The Bobcats would play their games at the National Sports Center Soccer Stadium. The 12,000 seat facility provides the necessary atmosphere and seating.

    2. Detroit Mastodons - Once upon a time Detroit was the heartbeat of the American industrial economy. With the influx of Asian and European automotive brands, Detroit's importance has definitely diminished. However, it is still a major city with teams in the "Big Four" leagues. Although MLS seems to have no desire to field a team in the Motor City, MLL would be wise to have one.

    Michigan is a strong lacrosse state. Although the Michigan State Spartans no longer play NCAA Division I lax, Detroit Mercy University does. Michigan is currently the team to beat in MCLA after back-to-back undefeated championship seasons. Nearly every major university in the state has a lax program. The state's high school programs are also known for their competitiveness.

    The team would play in the renovated Pontiac Silverdome. After the historic building was sold for a mere $583,000 last fall, there has been much speculation about its future. There are many indications that the building will be retrofitted as a soccer stadium to host a NASL team. Such a move would not be out of the question as the Silverdome was a highly popular venue for the 1994 US World Cup and also hosted a team in the original NASL. As the first domed MLL stadium, the Silverdome could prove to be a popular venue with fans that are sick of summer rains and heat.

    The team's name was chosen in an effort to move away from the city's failing automotive industry. In 2000, the state of Michigan named the Mastodon as its official state fossil. As a large, powerful, and tusked animal Mastodons lend themselves easily to professional sports teams. It is not hard to imagine Mastodon tusks wrapping around a Pro7, for example.

    Since the Redwings are one of the most popular and successful teams in the metro, their colors (red and white) would be utilized by the lacrosse team. At the risk of looking like Ohio State (very much hated in Michigan), the Mastodon would wear silver helmets as a nod to the Lions and as a play on "Silverdome." To even things out, the Mastodon would also have a healthy dollop of navy blue - perhaps as the primary jersey color.

    To keep the league balanced, a team will be added to each division, bringing each to nine.
    Western Division: Minnesota, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, LA, Seattle, San Jose, and Denver
    Eastern Division: Detroit, New York, Long Island, Boston, Rochester, Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh

    Continue to Part 5

    Tribe 7