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Monday, November 22, 2010

Pro Lax in Kansas City?!

For those of you that don't know me too well, I am a big soccer fan. I have followed MLS for a very long time and have been a so-so Fire fan since around 2000 or so. With Kansas City being half the distance from Des Moines, I toyed with the notion of switching allegiances* to the Wizards. After visiting KC over the summer and seeing their glorious new stadium, my mind was pretty much made up.
Last week the team's owners, OnGoal, announced that the Wizards were being renamed to begin a new chapter in their spanking new home this season. The result of the rebrand was Sporting Kansas City. While most long time fans plan to continue using the Wizards moniker (myself included), the "Sporting" comes from "sporting club," a popular naming style in Europe. European sporting clubs are typically over a century old and feature teams in other sports along with their more famous soccer teams (alternatively known as Athletic Clubs).
True to this, OnGoal has laid out plans to incorporate other sports under the Sporting Kansas City banner. Like the MLS team, the new clubs would play their games at the soccer team's brand new stadium, which opens this season. Rugby and lacrosse were two sports that were repeatedly identified by OnGoal. As Major League Lacrosse is the only professional field lacrosse league, it makes sense that OnGoal is referring specifically about an expansion franchise.
You may recall my MLL Expansion series. In that series I identified Red Bull as an organization that might pursue this type of ownership/expansion to maximize use of their stadium, Red Bull Arena. This set up would be similar to the company's Salzburg operations only a lacrosse club would be substituted for the hockey team.
Based on OnGoal's description of their brand identity and future plans, this is how I expect the SKC lax team to work out as well. The new lax team would incorporate the SKC color scheme, name, and elements from the crest. A proper nickname may be given immediately or developed by the fans over time. The logo would have some differences as OnGoal said the crest is specifically assigned to the soccer team.
On the same note, rumors keep popping up about a return of the Rochester Rattlers. The most persistent part of these rumors is that the team will be owned by the Rhinos and will play in their stadium, something else I suggested in my MLL expansion series. Just like SKC and the Outlaws (as well as Red Bull, if it happened), the new Rattlers would benefit from playing in a rent-free stadium as their venues are controlled by their owners. It seems that these owners recognize the potential long term profitability of MLL franchises, much like the original MLS owners when that league started.
Supporting the thought that expansion to KC and a rebirth of the Rattlers will happen sooner rather than later is a recent interview with MLL commissioner David Gross.

We have a very aggressive expansion plan in place. Our goal over the next decade is to grow from a 6 team league to a 16 team league. Now plans are often modified and we won’t add a team just for the sake of expansion.

In the short term, we will remain a 6 team league for the 2011 season. After being a road team last year the Machine will have a permanent home for the coming season, which we will announce next Tuesday. We will be adding two new teams for 2012 to grow to an 8 team league and should be able to announce those markets early in the New Year. We also hope to lengthen our season in 2012 from 12 games to 14 games.

According to the rumors, the "permanent home" for the Machine is in fact Rochester. Per the arrangements that kept the name and colors in the city when Toronto Nationals were born, the Machine will assume the "Rattlers" name.
It is entirely possible that one of the two teams expected to be included in the upcoming announcement will be Sporting Kansas City. The city has a strong and continually growing lax scene that would only become more fueled by a professional team. The fanbase would be regional with laxers throughout Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and even Iowa attending games and team sponsored tournaments. Without an NCAA D1 program in our region, the MLL team would have the potential to create an unrivaled top tier camp in the Great Plains.
When and if this actually comes to fruition remains to be seen. Hopefully OnGoal will commit to this plan and create something truly specially in Kansas City...
*For the record, the Des Moines Menace are the team I cheer for above every body else on the pitch. In fact, the Menace are one of my two favorite teams in DM in any sport.

Tribe 7