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The Vancouver Warriors Are Using Geography to Their Advantage

Known the world over for its dynamic skyline and stunning topographical landscape, Vancouver, British Columbia stands as a spectacular locale to both reside in and visit. At the geographical heart of this vibrant and highly diverse metropolis sit the Vancouver Warriors, a franchise poised to achieve heights yet to be fully realized since the team arrived in B.C. back in 2014 as the Vancouver Stealth.

With lofty goals and a lofty city as the backdrop, NLL.com spoke to Michael Doyle, President, Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE), Business Operations to further assess where the Warriors’ organization is headed as the league embarks on the middle point of the 2020’s.

CSE, owned by the Aquilini family, purchased the Vancouver Stealth in 2018. The club was subsequently rebranded as the Warriors and relocated from suburban Langley to downtown Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.

Doyle is a firm believer in the possibilities that accompany the Warriors’ highly urban place of business.

“One of the benefits of our downtown location is that our fans have great access to a fantastic entertainment experience in a world-class entertainment facility in Rogers Arena,” explained Doyle. “Whether for business or pleasure, people from all over the Lower Mainland funnel to the city daily. Transit infrastructure provides us an opportunity to reach into communities across the region with a Skytrain station adjacent to Rogers Arena.”

Cognizant of Vancouver annually ranking as one of the most expensive cities in North America, Doyle believes the Warriors’ product is a fantastic option for those looking to stretch their hard-earned dollar as far as it can possibly go.

Vancouver Warriors v Calgary Roughnecks. (Photo: Jordan Leigh/Vancouver Warriors)

“People are looking for an opportunity for a cost-effective family outing or an event to go to with friends on a Friday or Saturday night that won’t break the bank. With the Warriors being in such a central location, we offer a great entertainment experience for a reasonable price and this can be either the ‘event’ for the night or the starting point to a larger evening.”

With British Columbia serving as the Western Canada hub for both field and box lacrosse, including the presence of the longtime lax stronghold of Coquitlam (26 km/16 miles east of Rogers Arena), Warriors’ management continues to work diligently to grow brand and sport awareness in a region loaded with potential lifelong customers.

“Lacrosse is a very popular sport across B.C. and box lacrosse is quite popular and growing in the Lower Mainland. We work closely with the BC Lacrosse Association, which has one of the top summer leagues in North America,” opined Doyle.

The former executive vice president and general manager of Rogers Arena later added, “from a grassroots perspective, we are getting into schools with our Stick to School program and we engage with youth teams weekly, encouraging them and their families to experience a Warriors game. This ensures that we expose as many kids to box lacrosse as possible with a goal of building awareness and interest in the NLL product. We just wrapped up our Winter Camps and will soon be opening registration for Spring Camps for kids aged 7-13.”

The Stick to School program, referenced by Doyle, involves weekly player visits to multiple area schools, with the goal of introducing the team and sport to those lucky kids in attendance. The Warriors also work with student ambassadors at local colleges, with the aim of making a night at an NLL game a serious consideration when these option-filled consumers are forming their weekend plans.

The last several years of sustained marketing and on-the-ground labor has paid off for the Warriors, with the team electing to expand the potential demographical and geographical reach of its fanbase beyond those who are already predisposed to be lovers of the game.

Adam Charalambides looks for the shot. (Photo: Jordan Leigh/Vancouver Warriors)

“Since 2019, we have doubled our 18+ awareness levels across British Columbia and have seen an even greater increase in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. We have shifted our marketing strategy to focus on scaling our audience. This means engaging young adults and families in addition to the local lacrosse community – altogether some two million people live in the Lower Mainland alone and 4.7 million in the Province of B.C,” Doyle stated.

Knowing the importance of accompanying a superior in-arena experience with a stellar product on the playing surface, Vancouver made one of the biggest splashes of the NLL offseason when persuading the legendary Curt Malawsky to leave his role as Calgary Roughnecks coach and general manager, for the very same job title with his hometown Warriors. Not surprisingly, Doyle remains completely overjoyed with this outcome.

“Curt is both a world-class coach and a world-class person. Bringing him into our franchise allows us to begin building a competitive team on the field while building a strong and positive culture off the field,” praised Doyle. “Success follows Curt wherever he goes, whether it be as a player or as a coach. His personality and the culture he brings and instills is something that we identified when we were looking for someone to lead our team. We view Curt as a catalyst for creating the type of culture, team and organization that will make our fans confident in our vision and our aspiration to be a championship franchise.”

While the Warriors/Stealth have yet to achieve sustained success in the win column, finishing under .500 in all but one season in Vancouver, Doyle is encouraged for what lies ahead, based on the presence of Malawsky, an improving core of players and a seamless synergy with the NHL’s Canucks, the Warriors’ sister franchise which is currently tied for their league’s best record.

“Canucks Sports & Entertainment has shared values across our teams and products. Our vision is to win, and we believe that anything is possible when we put our minds to it. From ticketing and marketing to merchandise and game presentation, our people support all our teams with enthusiasm.”

The man with more than 30 years of sports and entertainment knowhow closed the discussion by noting, “one of the benefits of having a vibrant lacrosse community in B.C, is that we have employees with a history, passion and understanding of lacrosse, along with a mindset of doing whatever it takes to create lifelong memories for our fans.”