The Panther City Lacrosse Club entered season three in the NLL with an extremely high level of expectation, both on and off the field.
Between the boards, general manager Bob Hamley and head coach Tracey Kelusky have constructed a roster that has matured from a respectable 7-11 record in year one to 10-8 and a playoff berth in year two. Few would have expected an expansion team to contend so quickly, but that is where things currently stand for the franchise from Fort Worth.
In the business office, club Chief Operating Officer Amber Cox believes that 2023-2024 will serve as the time period when the North Texas based organization takes a major step forward in the popularity department.
“Doesn’t happen overnight,” explained Cox. “But I truly believe TK and the boys are really going to help us. You win and that’s a great way to get a lot of people on the bandwagon and in the door for the first time. I really feel like we’re going to have a great year on the field and that’s going to impact our business in the positive.”
The veteran sports executive, who holds a similar role with WNBA’s Dallas Wings, is bullish on PCLC’s ongoing efforts to organically grow brand recognition in the fast-growing and highly prosperous Dallas/Fort Worth market.
“We have a fantastic youth sports manager (Madison Montgomery) who has built incredible relationships within the lacrosse community. In the last 1.5 years, she has built wonderful relationships on the high school level, with Boys and Girls Clubs and the Fort Worth Independent School District,” noted Cox.
The highly-respected marketer added, “Just last week, Montgomery was in two Fort Worth schools with players and coaches doing PE takeovers, teaching the kids about box lacrosse, the history of the game and why were named Panther City.”
PCLC’s recent efforts provided roughly 1,000 kids the chance to attend one of the first two home games this season, free of charge. The connection to local youth also manifested when team mascot Prowler served as one of the most popular attractions during the recently held Fort Worth Parade of Lights.
The team’s dedication to their hometown school system was made even more abundantly clear when the district was honored as this season’s initial Community Champions recipient. The program serves as a dual opportunity to honor and celebrate those who positively impact the area, while simultaneously showcasing the NLL product to people who very likely have never attended a game previously. The initiative is sponsored by marquee corporate partner Frank Kent Cadillac.
While Fort Worth is clearly one of the principal points of marketing emphasis for Panther City, the club is also working diligently to build a base of fans in the more populated Dallas side of the metro area, particularly the lacrosse-heavy geographies of North Dallas, Plano and Frisco. With the team securing more Sunday afternoon home games this season, Cox is hoping that a larger representation of the 6.6 million residents of Dallas/Fort Worth, along with the 29 million inhabitants of Texas, will make time in their schedules to check out a game at Dickies Arena.
“This market is so attractive because there’s so much opportunity. There’s so many people and lacrosse is growing at such a rapid rate. It’s a cool thing to be part of something we’re building from the ground up,” said Cox.
“The thing about Texans, they just love being Texans. Having a team here, that’s enough for them to get behind it. Our ‘Texas Forever Night’ was by far our most popular. We did the Texas themed jerseys and people freaked out over them.”
Cox was first exposed to the NLL when working in a dual capacity for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and NLL’s New England Black Wolves, who would later become the Albany Firewolves. She quickly grew tremendous admiration for both the people who make up the league and the bevy of possibilities that existed in terms of growing the box lacrosse enterprise.
“I think it’s one of the most marketable sports because you can go to a game and get into it without really understanding the rules. It’s so fast paced. When you think of attention spans of young people, it’s constantly moving, there’s constant motion, lots of scoring. I believe in the league. I’ve had such great experiences with every player, coach and GM I’ve ever worked with,” opined Cox.
Fast forwarding to present day, Cox lights up when discussing the accessibility of the Panther City players, noting that PR staff sometimes have to tell players that there is simply no more time to sign autographs. Win or lose, the guys in purple and white love nothing more than mixing it up with fans.
Cox, whose resume includes tenures with multiple NLL, WNBA, NWSL and MLS organizations, looks to Major League Soccer as a great template for what the NLL can become.
“Lacrosse will be in the feeds of the young people growing up and playing it, like we saw with soccer 25 or 35 years ago, and where MLS was then and where it is today. I think that’s a natural trajectory you can look at and say that’s where we can be.”
Cox later noted, “There are tried-and-true processes that work for every league. Most of the leagues I’ve worked with you would call emerging, notably the WNBA and NWSL. We know the product is great. We know we have the best athletes in the world. We just got to get people in to witness it.”
Cox, who has seen and done it all in sports, could hardly contain her excitement, when speaking about what lies ahead for both Panther City and the NLL at large.
“Some of these markets are just crushing it. The long-standing teams like Buffalo and Colorado are filling these arenas. It’s just a matter of time for the rest of the country to catch on to this, especially as it moves to different parts of the country, including the non-traditional markets.”