SBD/Issue 222/Sports Industrialists

Catching Up With U.S. Lacrosse COO Bill Schoonmaker

U.S. Lacrosse COO
Bill Schoonmaker
With lacrosse participation at an all-time high and the game experiencing newfound popularity outside of its traditional Northeastern roots, U.S. Lacrosse recently hired its first COO, BILL SCHOONMAKER. The veteran sports marketer is charged with helping to manage the growth of lacrosse without alienating core fans. Schoonmaker detailed his agenda to Editor-at-Large Terry Lefton.

Q: You recently became U.S. Lacrosse's first COO, after selling the property while you were at 361 Sports & Event Marketing. So, I take it you sold yourself on the sport's growth?

Schoonmaker: I know the sport and I know a good story when I see one. We're the fifth-largest NGB, and the growth of the NGB reflects the growth across the country in terms of participation. As a guy who played lacrosse growing up in Greenwich [Conn.] and at Penn State, I just wanted to be there as the sport took off.

Q: What's on top of your agenda?

Schoonmaker: Our biggest priorities include having the appropriate internal structure so we can serve membership and our other constituencies, and manage growth responsibly. We want to grow our portfolio of events and properties to increase our exposure. We also need to be more progressive about membership and member benefits -- about 75% of our members are youth, so we have to keep that in mind and be more relevant to those younger folks.

Q: What's the sponsorship picture look like for U.S. Lacrosse?

Schoonmaker: We have some great NGB and national team sponsors, but we have some work to do in terms of reaching out to companies, in categories like telecom and automotive, to show them what we're about. If you look at some of the cities that have seen a lot of growth -- places like Denver, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, those are places that aren't traditional lacrosse markets. When you look at our upscale demos, there's a story any sponsor should want to listen to. We have to do a better job of structuring our offerings to companies so they can find value in what we think is an externally desirable audience.

Q: You've been talking about a new location for the NGB and the museum and Hall of Fame. Is that something sponsors could get in on?

Schoonmaker: We're looking at a number of locations, for what looks like a 40,000-square-foot office space with a museum. Our plans are to have a regulation [lacrosse] field attached, so there should be some opportunities there. We've been located across from Johns Hopkins [in Baltimore] since the NGB started [in '97], and in a perfect world we'd be in a new facility in four years or so. And it won't automatically be in Maryland. We are looking here, but we are also looking at locations around the U.S. The sport's being played across the country now, you know. ... I expect that a decision on a location will be made by the end of the year.

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