On February 22nd, 2020, Southern California was scheduled to host the first-ever outdoor game in National Lacrosse League history. The “Rumble on the Runway” between the San Diego Seals and the Vancouver Warriors was going to take place at the MCAS Miramar base, where the movie “Top Gun” was filmed.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic about to turn our world upside down, the game was cancelled and the 2019-20 NLL season would come to a premature end without crowing a champion.
But the Seals and the NLL were determined to eventually stage an outdoor box lacrosse game and that vision is going to be reality this Saturday when the Seals host the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in the “Stadium Showdown” at Snapdragon Stadium (1:30pm PT/4:30pm ET ESPN+, TSN+ and same day delay on ESPNU at 11pm ET).
“Our fans are really excited to see it in a different setting outdoors in the sunshine in the middle of the day, totally different than a normal NLL game,” said Dan Funk, Director of Marketing for the San Diego Seals.
Snapdragon Stadium, home of San Diego State Football, the San Diego Wave of the National Women’s Soccer League, and the San Diego Legion of Major League Rugby, was built on the site of Qualcomm Stadium (formerly Jack Murphy Stadium), the former home of the San Diego Padres baseball team and San Diego Chargers football team. The venue will also serve as one of the hosts of the 2023 World Lacrosse Championships where many NLL players are expected to represent their home nation.
The new venue opened for business this past August and the Seals are hoping that they can attract new fans to a stadium that everyone in town is excited to go to.
“We’re tapping into new fans too and reach new consumers who may not have heard or been interested in the Seals,” said Funk. “A lot of that has to do with the venue because people hear Snapddragon Stadium and they want a piece of it.”
Snapdragon Stadium has a seating capacity of 35,000 for traditional outdoor events like football, soccer and rugby, but for Saturday’s clash between the Seals and Desert Dogs, the capacity has been reduced to 10,100 seats that would normally be end zone seating for football. Fans can purchase tickets here.
The “U” shaped setup offers fans a great look at the action with the box closest to them to get the best view.
“We’re going to put the box around one of the end zones…more like the ten-yard line so it’s going perpendicular to the way the football field is laid out,” said Funk.
The Seals are going to bring their turf from Pechanga Arena over to Snapdragon Stadium and they have purchased new boards that will be installed for the game. The process of putting the rink and the field together will begin after a pair of NCAA Women’s Lacrosse games that will be played on Friday night.
The process starts with placing wood down on the field before the turf from the arena can be rolled out and then the placement of the boards.
“It’s a pretty heavy lift operationally,” said Funk. “We’re going to start setting up the box around 10 or 11pm on Friday night and have the team work through the morning so that by 8am that morning it’s all finished up and ready to go.”
It will also have its share of broadcast innovation, with the largest production in league history with several innovations – 13 cameras including a Spider Cam over the field of play, four coaches/players mic’ed up, crew chief official mic’ed up to listen in on official review discussions, on floor access after a goal is scored and during other stoppages in play. It will all be brought to air through a co-production by the Seals, the NLL, and Ross Productions Group to an audience that will include ESPN+, TSN+, FOX5 San Diego, and KVMY Las Vegas.
They say good things come to those who wait and for everyone involved with the San Diego Seals and the National Lacrosse League, Saturday’s Stadium Showdown will be the culmination of a lot of vision and planning that began several years ago.
And you can be sure that other teams around the league will be paying close attention on Saturday with hopes that there could be other outdoor NLL games in the near future.