The National Lacrosse League continued its aggressive westward expansion today when Commissioner Jim Jennings formally awarded an expansion franchise to the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. The Vancouver Lacrosse Club was introduced during a media conference today at General Motors Place.
Owned and operated by Sportworks Entertainment, the Vancouver Ravens will play their home games at General Motors Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League and the Vancouver Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association. The Vancouver NLL team will begin play during the 2001-2002 season, which will begin in late December.
"When one looks at how strong the history of lacrosse is here in British Columbia, you can understand how excited we are today to continue our aggressive western expansion by awarding a new franchise to Vancouver and to Sportworks Entertainment," said Jim Jennings, Commissioner of the National Lacrosse League. "We see Vancouver and Calgary as the flagships for our long-term plan to create a solid Western Conference featuring teams from Canada and the United States, so it is very gratifying for us to partner with such a strong local ownership group."
The successful NLL expansion franchise application was put forward by David Stadnyk of Vancouver, Tom Mayenknecht of West Vancouver and Bob Smart of North Vancouver, the principals of Sportworks Entertainment. Sportworks is also associated with the Vancouver Whitecaps of North American A-League soccer and the Vancouver Breakers of the North American W-League. Mayenknecht will serve as Governor of the new NLL franchise while Smart will act as Alternate Governor.
"We were very impressed with the vision of Sportworks and the strong local community connections they are already building through their involvement in the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Vancouver Breakers of soccer," said Jennings. "Their bid underlined respect for the heritage of lacrosse in British Columbia and the importance of strong, meaningful partnerships with both BC Lacrosse and the Western Lacrosse Association and that made a difference to our Board of Governors."
The Sportworks bid also called for home games at General Motors Place and a strong working relationship with Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment, the owners and operators of the arena and the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League.
"We were turned on to this opportunity for Vancouver and for British Columbia largely because of the approach that Jim Jennings and the National Lacrosse League are taking in promoting this exciting version of indoor lacrosse," said Mayenknecht. "We have seen the success of the Toronto Rock at the Air Canada Centre and the Ottawa Rebel at the Corel Centre and we saw a natural fit with General Motors Place and the great tradition of BC lacrosse."
The local ownership group acknowledged the strong support and cooperation of Orca Bay Sports & Entertainment, Tourism Vancouver, BC Lacrosse, the Western Lacrosse Association and other groups in encouraging the successful Vancouver expansion application.
"All of us at Sportworks are committed to the promotion and development of new opportunities in family entertainment and NLL lacrosse certainly fits the bill," explained Mayenknecht. "It's a fast, exciting game, it looks great on television and it's well-priced for
families. We believe it will create significant added value for
Vancouver and for BC and we're convinced it will fuel the growth of youth lacrosse in particular and youth sport in general."
Vancouver becomes the second new expansion franchise awarded for the 2001-2002 NLL season. A Calgary group headed by Brad Banister and Kevin Melnyk was officially awarded a franchise on March 28th. The Toronto Rock set a new world attendance record for indoor lacrosse Saturday, March 31, when a sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,059 watched Toronto defeat the Columbus Landsharks, 11-8.
Vancouver and Calgary join the nine existing teams in the National Lacrosse League: Toronto Rock, Ottawa Rebel, Buffalo Bandits, Rochester Knighthawks, Columbus Landsharks, Albany Attack, New York Saints, Washington Power and Philadelphia Wings.
Season tickets can be reserved in priority sequence by calling (604) 669-7283. More information on game-day ticket prices and plans for team management in lacrosse operations will be announced before the end of April.