SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Lacrosse league will open with tour

Major League Lacrosse, the creation of fitness guru Jake Steinfeld and the SFX Sports Group, will debut with a summer tour that visits six to 10 cities next year before beginning league play in 2001.

Prospective owner-operators of MLL franchises will co-promote each tour stop in their home cities. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, Long Island, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio, have already been selected as stops on the tour and likely markets for MLL franchises.

"It's really a trial run for us and will answer all of the questions we have without jumping in headfirst," said Gabby Roe, MLL's executive director. "We're trying to introduce the Major League Lacrosse experience to the public."

The tour will also include such entertainment elements as concerts and fireworks and will be televised on various regional sports networks.

The SFX Sports Group's television division will produce the broadcasts and make the feeds available to the stations free of charge. Talks are ongoing with a national cable station that would air one game coast-to-coast.

Roe said MLL has received multiple inquiries in each market from possible investors. The league will have a single-entity ownership structure similar to Major League Soccer, but SFX, Steinfeld and several other parties will hold equity stakes in the league along with franchise operators. The entry fee charged to owner-operators will likely fall between $1 million and $2 million, Roe said.

The league also announced its first three sponsors, signing three-year deals with Sports Helmets, Great Atlantic (a lacrosse catalog) and stick-maker Warrior Lacrosse, which is a founding partner of the league. The total cash and barter value of the three sponsorships is thought to be more than $1 million.

Venues for the tour have not yet been selected, but the games will likely be played in small stadiums that can seat 5,000 to 10,000 spectators.

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