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ExpansionStories/Op-Ed

Panther City Lacrosse Club Will Be Fort Worth’s Team In A Crowded North Texas Sports Market

There are already a number of professional sports franchises in the North Texas region.  The Dallas Cowboys, Texas Rangers and Dallas Wings play in Arlington while Dallas is home to both the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars. Fort Worth is part of this region, but until recently, the 13th largest city in the country and the single fastest-growing large city in America (according to the 2020 U.S. Census) has been devoid of a professional sports franchise.

That it is until now.

The National Lacrosse League will welcome Panther City Lacrosse Club as an expansion team for the upcoming season and they will play at the brand-new, 14,000 seat Dickies Arena that opened in November of 2019.

“This is Fort Worth’s team,” said Greg Bibb, President and CEO of Panther City LC.  “While we market the team as a North Texas lacrosse team, really we’re trying to engage the Fort Worth community and recognize that Panther City Lacrosse Club as a community asset.  We’re the only professional team that calls the city home.”

Bibb is also the President and CEO of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, also owned by Panther City LC Majority Owner Bill Cameron.  When the ownership group was looking to add a second sports franchise to their portfolio, a National Lacrosse League franchise was a very attractive option because North Texas is a fast-growing youth lacrosse market.

“In some cases, there are too many kids that want to play and not enough adults who have played to administer and coach,” said Bibb.  “We’re very bullish on the game here in North Texas and then from a National Lacrosse League perspective, the great thing about this sport is obviously it’s lacrosse and speaks to the lacrosse community but it’s also a lot of hockey and a lot of basketball.”

So why the name “Panther City Lacrosse Club”?

Fort Worth is referred to as “Panther City” because the panther has a presence throughout the city limits including statues of the large cat sleeping quietly throughout downtown Fort Worth as well as the Panther Island Pavilion and Panther Island Brewing Company. The association between Fort Worth and a panther can also be traced back to 1875 when a newspaper columnist wrote about a river overflowing and driving out a panther who would wander the streets during the night.

So, after the NLL awarded their 14th franchise to Fort Worth in July of 2020, it was a no-brainer to indoctrinate “Panther” into the team’s name.

In November 2020, the team would be named “Panther City Lacrosse Club”.

And now Fort Worth has a team of its own that will also be a part of a very busy professional sports calendar to attract fans from among the 7.5 million people who live in North Texas.

“There is a lot of competition in terms of professional sports, collegiate sports and just a heck of a lot of things to do because it’s a vibrant marketplace,” said Bibb.  “Finding our way, generating awareness and making sure people know we’re here is easier said than done so that’s on us to make sure people understand that this world-class lacrosse team is playing down the road in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena.”

Panther City LC will become the first team to play in the state of Texas in the NLL’s 35-year history. The sport of lacrosse has grown both geographically and demographically throughout the United States and it is picking up steam in Texas.  The objective for Panther City is to get lacrosse sticks into as many kids as possible and specifically in the hands of children who may never have been introduced to the sport before.

Lacrosse continues to find a pathway into regions that traditionally haven’t been “lacrosse markets” and that includes Texas.

“It’s no longer a ‘private school for the well-off only’ sport,” said Bibb.  “It is now played coast to coast and fortunately I think for the sport and society in general, is played by all walks of life and all demographics.  That is a big part of what we’re trying to do here with our team.  We want to be in the top of that lacrosse pyramid for North Texas.”

While the management and the front office staff works hard to introduce the team to the marketplace while also establishing grassroots efforts, the lacrosse staff led by Vice-President of Lacrosse Operations and General Manager Bob Hamley and Head Coach Tracey Kelusky have been busy putting together what the entire organization is hoping will be a competitive team in their first season of play.

Hamley is one of a select group of people to have won an NLL championship as a player, as a coach and as an executive and that makes him a very significant hire for an expansion team in a new box lacrosse market like North Texas.

“We’re fortunate to have someone whose resume is unmatched in terms of his ability to be a part of and drive, coach, and create winning clubs,” said Bibb.   “Make no mistake about it…winning in this league is hard.  This is the best lacrosse league in the world with the best lacrosse players on the face of the planet.  I’m confident we will have a competitive team from game one when we take the field in Philadelphia on December 4th.”

Six days later, Panther City LC will play their inaugural home game when they welcome West Division rival, Vancouver Warriors to Dickies Arena. By that point, there will have been two years of planning and marketing a new team to a new market for the sport.  The gameday experience will be important and the continued efforts in the community will be crucial to the long-term connection of the franchise to the market.

But a winning team will also go a long way to building a fan base.

“That’s job one,” said Bibb.  “You have to have a competitive team.  Ideally you want to win more games at home than you lose but also, it’s on the plate of the business side of the operation to make sure that we are driving awareness around the team.”

What started as an idea turned into securing a franchise.  That was in July of 2020 and that was followed a few months later with naming of the team.  And now, the waiting is almost over…in fact, it’s now down to just a matter of weeks.

And the excitement level?

“It’s high,” said Bibb.  “For me personally, it’s a journey that began two years ago with an idea of pursuing an additional property for our company.  It’s a very exciting time for us.”

Welcome to professional sports Fort Worth!  Panther City Lacrosse Club is your team in a busy North Texas sports market.   It’s an exciting time for the community to welcome a sport like lacrosse that continues to grow all over the country.

NLL