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The Swarm Are Generating Buzz in the Peach State

The Georgia Swarm arrived like a freight train into metro Atlanta, winning the 2017 NLL championship during just their second season in the south, amid partaking in postseason play throughout every one of their first four campaigns in the Peach State.

Post 2019, life has not been quite as flowery for the former Minnesota-based franchise. Two playoffs lost to Covid-19, followed by dual seasons on the outside looking in at the Mammoth’s and Bandits’ runs to championship glory, has created a postseason void for the club. But, to the great relief of lacrosse fans throughout Georgia, the aforementioned circumstance is now part of the proverbial dustbin of history.

The 2023-2024 version of the Swarm enter the final weekend of the regular season possessors of a 10-7 record, with an opening-round home playoff game very much in their sights. The tide has turned for Georgia, and Owner & General Manager John J. Arlotta is thrilled with the possibilities that may lie ahead.

“This fan base is not what it was in 2017it’s much bigger than that right now. Back then we had only been here one full year. It was a little hard to take advantage of that because people didn’t know us. Today, people know us. Winning a championship could mean more than it would have even back in 2017,” explained the longtime Swarm front office boss.

The award-winning NLL executive quickly distinguished, “but we don’t think about that. We think about the first game and the next game. We need to win one game at a time and every game is different. We’re not doing it to increase our fan base. We’re doing it because we’re competitive and want to win because that is the purpose of a professional sports league. The benefits that accrue from that we will certainly take.”

Arlotta and the Swarm marketing apparatus hit the ground running in 2016, introducing their brand, the league and the sport to the more than six million occupants of metro Atlanta, many of whom had little to no interaction with the three pillars that surrounded the region’s latest entry into what was an already crowded sports market.

Seven years later, all the blood, sweat and tears have paid off.

“The people know who the Swarm are now. In the first few years, we committed a lot of money to radio, billboards and all the traditional advertising methodologies in order to get our name out there.”

The uber-successful healthcare entrepreneur later added, “I hear all the time people say to me you’re the owner of the Georgia Swarm. When I drive down the street, I always see kids throwing the lacrosse ball around. I drive by a park and kids are always out there playing lacrosse. It’s been terrific growth in the entire market.”

The approaching decade of presence of a resident NLL entity, combined with an influx of lacrosse-centric Northeastern transplants to the Atlanta region, has done nothing short of turbocharging the expanse into a growing center of activity for the sport. With the Swarm doing everything from establishing the Georgia Swarm Box League (partnership with Atlanta Box Lacrosse Association), along with existing as a benefactor for the Hebron Christian Academy lacrosse program (Dacula, Georgia), Arlotta and company are continually provided proof of concept regarding the tangible results of their efforts.

“Lacrosse has grown dramatically in the seven years we’ve been here,” pronounced Arlotta. “A really good indicator is you pick up the roster of division one, two and three lacrosse programs (both men and women), you’ll see a lot of Atlanta players. Atlanta kids are great athletes. Football is big in Atlanta and Georgia, and lacrosse is a great crossover sport for kids who play football.”

From the very first minute the Minnesota moving trucks pulled into “the capital of the South,” the franchise has called the northern Atlanta suburb of Duluth home. Thanks to the epicenter of the Georgia lacrosse universe residing in the surrounding northern Fulton, Cobb and Gwinnett County localities, Arlotta remains very comfortable taking the field at Gas South Arena, knowing full well that some stretches of his vast metro area may encounter more challenges than others when attempting to visit a venue situated 27 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.

“I don’t see any reason not to be where we are, especially compared to downtown Atlanta. It’s not the easiest to go into downtown Atlanta,” proclaimed the retired captain in the US Army Reserves. “Watching an NFL or NBA game, with established national leagues, no problem, people are willing to do that. But I can’t say were established enough as a league, and team, that people would be willing to fight the traffic and go do that. We’re well positioned where we are.”

No conversation, thought or dream, relating to the topic of the Georgia Swarm is fully realized without the name Lyle Thompson darting and slashing through one’s consciousness. The 31-year-old Iroquois icon’s resume includes NLL title and league MVP achievements, and multiple sportsmanship awards, all set amongst a career that has featured an enduring highlight reel of spectacular scoring and slick passing performances. The man is a lacrosse virtuoso.

Arlotta is beyond overjoyed that Thompson has played the entirety of his NLL career with the Swarm, with the reasons for his admiration involving way more than just his play between the boards.

“Lyle Thompson is an incredible person, an incredible spokesperson for the Swarm and an incredible spokesperson for his people. He’s a unique individual that we are blessed to have on our team. Everyone knows how good he is as a player, but the same goes as a person and an educator.”

Arlotta further elaborated on the educational contributions bestowed by Thompson.

The educator side of Lyle is one of the more important sides that people overlook. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort really supporting Lyle’s efforts to educate people on the Indigenous peoples. What they’ve been through. What their traditions are. What their history is. Their place in society today.”

The Notre Dame alum concluded his Lyle Thompson thoughts with a unique observation.

“It helps Lyle, helps us and helps the Indigenous community. I see it as one, plus one, equals three.”

With a return to the playoffs etched in stone, a fast-growing fan base and burgeoning lacrosse market under their feet, plus one of the game’s greats exemplifying an all-star on and off the field, life is full of nectar for the Georgia Swarm. Time will tell if the franchise’s diligence culminates in the sweet taste of box lacrosse’s ultimate honey, the National Lacrosse League Cup.

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