BankAtlantic Center is to host the first professional lacrosse game in Florida in January, in what officials say will serve as a test to see whether South Florida can sustain its own indoor lacrosse team.
Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Panthers and operator of the arena, and the National Lacrosse League announced the Jan. 3 regular season matchup between the New York Titans and Toronto Rock this afternoon. Tickets for the matchup dubbed the Florida Lacrosse Cup, which will cost $10, $15 and $25, go on sale on Friday through Ticketmaster (ticketmaster.com; 954-523-3309 in Broward; 561-966-3309 in Palm Beach).
The NLL has 13 teams across the U.S. and Canada and plays a 16-game schedule between January and April. The league is looking to expand.
“We definitely view South Florida as a place for future expansion, and we are bringing the game here on January 3 to give fans a chance to experience the excitement of the NLL in person,” NLL Commissioner Jim Jennings said in a statement.
Sunrise Sports & Entertainment President Michael Yormark said the league contacted the Panthers four or five years ago about the possibility of expanding. But the team and venue weren’t ready yet, Yormark said.
Now, Yormark said, “There’s some potential there. There are quite a few NHL teams that are now in the indoor lacrosse business.”
Yormark said four or five NLL teams are associated with the NHL teams where they play, including the Colorado Mammoth, which is owned by Stan Kroenke, who also owns the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Adapting the arena from hockey to lacrosse isn't difficult and some arenas host a lacrosse game in the afternoon followed by a hockey game that night, Yormark said. He said the fan bases are similar, too.
The Florida Lacrosse Cup game, Yormark said, will give SSE a sense of whether the community can sustain yet another lower-tier sport.
The region's track record with minor league sports hasn't exactly been stellar.
“We think it’s an opportunity to test the market,” Yormark said stressing that games are played in the winter. “If it’s successful, the goal would be to explore the possibility of having an expansion team.”
Yormark said organizers hope the Jan. 3 game will draw 8,000 to 10,000 people.
Is there any way that many people show up? And if they do, does South Florida get another team? Will you go?