On February 17th, the expansion New York Riptide unveiled the naming and logo of their team during a ceremony at NYCB LIVE: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, New York. At the Coliseum representing the Riptide that day was GF Sports’ ownership group led by Gary Fuhrman, Managing Partner of GF Capital and Board Member, GF Sports, and Josh Ripple, Tournament Director of the New York Open and EVP, GF Sports.
Prior to being awarded ownership of the Riptide, GF Sports had already proven experience managing live sports and entertainment properties both in the New York area and worldwide. In 2015, GF Sports acquired the Memphis Open, one of the longest-running American tournaments on the ATP World Tour and the only indoor ATP event contested in the United States. In 2017, GF Sports moved the Memphis Open to NYCB Live on Long Island where the tournament has been held the past two years, rebranded as The New York Open.
NLL.com got a chance to speak with Mr. Fuhrman about his goals on growing lacrosse in the New York area, where GF Sports is in the process of building their team in advance of the Riptide’s NLL debut in December, and of course, if there will be a team mascot.
Left to Right: Erik Baker (Managing Director, GF Capital and Board Member for GF Sports), Nick Sakiewicz (NLL Commissioner) and Gary Fuhrman (Managing Partner, GF Capital & Board Member, GF Sports).
NLL.com: What do you want the fans to know about the management team?
Mr. Fuhrman: The two hires that we’ve made, which have been publicized, those were the jumping off point for us. With Regy Thorpe, our general manager and head coach, we were looking for someone that had New York roots, had ideally played in the league or coached in the league, and then not only that, but who also had a broader coaching experience and had grassroots background. He was the perfect package for us because of our strategy of being very strong on the grassroots. He is a general manager that understands players from being a player himself. That’s hard to find that full combination and we found that in him. And him having coached at Syracuse all those years and being the national indoor coach – really, no one else that we met fit all of those criteria and he fits culturally with us as well.
And with our second hire in Lance Basler, that’s somebody that Regy has had a long experience with and is looked up to in lacrosse very favorably. That was an easy one for us. And then we saw how he got along with all the players in his role at US Lacrosse. Not only did Regy think he could work very closely with him but he was also a player favorite. That was a very natural fit. He is a get it done kind of person. We met him at a Wings game and shortly thereafter – I believe it was a day or so – he was on Long Island looking for houses and meeting with Coach Tierney (Head coach of Hofstra). He was ready to go. Having that kind of get it done attitude was important for us.
Now, where do we go from here? We’re very much working on the business side and actively recruiting for ticketing and other positions on the business side and are hopeful we will have all of those slots filled in the coming months. We’re doing it step by step.
NLL.com: What can you take from watching what the Seals and Wings have done this year in their inaugural season and apply it to the Riptide? Specifically in marketing, promotions, sponsorships, ticket sales and social media.
Mr. Fuhrman: The Seals, which are very well managed, had a different challenge. Lacrosse is not necessarily a top of mind sport in San Diego, where on Long Island it is. So they had to get sticks in peoples’ hands to promote the sport.
The good news on our side is that that’s already been done. Here on Long Island, field lacrosse is just more popular than box lacrosse.
Philadelphia has more of a history with the sport, of course. They had that pent up demand that is very similar to us. I think those analogies might be more similar between Philly and Long Island than with San Diego.
NYCB LIVE is a first class facility and we already have a lot of promotional material for the season. We’re educating the hockey fans already during Islanders games and other events about what the box lacrosse game is with video footage that we are coming. Not only do we go out to the grassroots of the field lacrosse club teams, but we’re really promoting in-venue, on the radio, etc. about what we’re about and that’s starting now already.
NYCB Live: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
NLL.com: New York is the No. 1 market in the country. Are you trying to have a presence in Connecticut, Westchester, the five boroughs and even Jersey? Or are you mostly focusing on Long Island?
Mr. Fuhrman: Given the fact that we are the only team in the whole tri-state area and the fact that NYCB Live is conveniently located, we believe from a fan perspective that we won’t be attracting people just from Long Island – which is the core hotbed for lacrosse – but from Connecticut, Westchester, New Jersey and the five boroughs. We feel like we’ll be able to get fans out from across the tri-state area.
Our plan on the grassroots side is not only to just attract fans to the games, but also to grow the sport of box lacrosse in the tri-state area. The Black Wolves have done a great job in their market. We’re hoping the Riptide will be a leader in box lacrosse instructions and leagues and in continuing to grow and develop the sport locally.
NLL.com: Where are you in the process of building the rest of the team, besides Regy and Lance?
Mr. Fuhrman: On the business side, we’re deep in recruiting right now. By the end of this current season, we expect to have our full team in place. On the player personnel and team operations side, Lance and Regy are working hard to think about our assistant coaches and scouting and who we’re engaging on that front.
NLL.com: Can you talk about what the process has been like putting together an expansion team, from talking with Nick (Sakiewicz, the NLL Commissioner) to being awarded the team, to the announcement, to naming the coach, and all the work that still needs to be done before December?
Mr. Fuhrman: It’s been very intense. We’ve been studying the league and know a number of people in and around the league. We got connected to Nick about a year ago, and once we heard directly from the commissioner what the league strategy was, and where they stood, and how they had been wanting to find a New York owner, we quickly went to work before we were even awarded the franchise. We put a business plan together which took an enormous amount of time and effort without necessarily knowing if we’d be picked.
We very much went into research and planning mode to evaluate what the prospects were and what it would all be like. Out of that effort we presented that to the NLL Board and Nick which distinguished us as someone who thought it through and not as an organization who were just looking to add another sports property to their portfolio because it was so detailed and thought through. It was a very dynamic process and it allowed us to have a dialogue not just with Nick but with other owners. And we came to the conclusion that it would be an attractive opportunity to us.
From that point, we did our announcement on December 12th with the kick off at the Bleacher Report headquarters in New York City. We were very supported by fans and the sports community at large that want to help and be involved. From there, we recruited the two key hires we made and it’s been sort of 24/7 since then to get all of the pieces in place.
Fortunately, a very big part of having success is having the right venue. Even though we could have put this team anywhere in the tri-state area, we really honed in on Long Island because of the history of lacrosse and because we have an exceptional relationship with BSE (owners of NYCB Live) with other events that we do there.
The next phase was naming the team. We did a number of focus groups and surveyed fans, even prior to the public announcement of the name. We tallied the responses and we identified Riptide, which exemplified the themes from Long Island and the ethos of the team of being an unrelenting power that our team is looking to build, as our name.
Now we’re in the business phase.
Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin
Left to Right: Kevin Morgan (SVP & CRO, National Lacrosse League), Nick Vaerewyck (VP of Programming for NYCB LIVE), Lance Basler (Asst GM & Director of Lacrosse Operations, New York Riptide), Regy Thorpe (Head Coach & General Manager, New York Riptide), Gary Fuhrman (Managing Partner, GF Capital & Board Member, GF Sports), Kevan Abrahams (Minority Leader, Nassau County Legislator), Shep Messing (Olympian and Four-time Major Indoor Soccer League Champion), Butch Goring (Four-time Stanley Cup Champion, New York Islanders) and Josh Ripple (EVP, GF Sports)
NLL.com: We’ve been asked this a lot – will there be a mascot and do you know what it will be?
Mr. Fuhrman: Stay tuned. There will be a mascot. We’re working through the strategy there and how we engage with fans. The process of selecting the mascot will be very similar to how we picked the Riptide name.
NLL.com: What kind of grassroots do you have planned for growing lacrosse and generating exposure for the Riptide?
Mr. Fuhrman: What makes it very interesting on the grassroots side of things is that field lacrosse is very well developed on Long Island where box lacrosse isn’t. We think we can really fill a void by supporting all of the clubs in field lacrosse with box lax initiatives. That’s our goal. We will be very connected with the community by supporting the youth lacrosse clubs with box lacrosse programming and competitions. We can use NYCB Live for high level games and tournaments.
We also want to involve boys and girls. The good thing about having a coach like Regy, who coached at the highest level of boys and girls lacrosse, is that he can speak to how much box lacrosse helps you develop into a great collegiate and professional player. We will have girls playing box lacrosse and have educational initiatives to help parents, coaches and players understand what the box game can do for a player’s outdoor game.
NLL.com: What would you want potential new players of the Riptide to know about the Riptide team?
Mr. Fuhrman: That we are willing to support the team and ensure success, commitment and support for the Riptide. We are New York centric. We made a huge commitment for Long Island and are here for the long haul.
From a player perspective, when they play at the newly renovated NYCB Live, they are going to love it and they will be supported by great fans—it’s going to be a special place to compete. We have a long-term vision for Long Island and we’re very committed to New York sports. For players on the field and otherwise, it will be a very unique organization to be a part of.
Mr. Fuhrman is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is an active member of the board for the Garden of Dreams Foundation. Mr. Fuhrman also served as a Dwight School Governor from 2006-2010, and was named a Dwight School Foundation Trustee in 2010.
Mr. Fuhrman is a board member of Jonathan Adler, Blue Man Group, Oscar de la Renta and The Collective, in addition to GF Sports Holdings.
The Rochester Knighthawks host the Georgia Swarm Friday night at 7:30 p.m. EST to kick off week 14 of the 2018-2019 NLL season. Watch the game on B/R Live by downloading the B/R Live app through iTunes or Google Play; and/or via Apple TV, the Roku platform and Amazon Fire TV.