SBJ/Sept. 2-8, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

ESPN plans to cover up to 60 games from world lacrosse championship

Continuing to augment its lacrosse portfolio, ESPN will showcase as many as 60 games over 10 nights from the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse Men’s World Championship in Denver, which organizers are calling “the largest lacrosse event in history.”

The semifinals and finals from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver next July will be carried live on ESPNU, with the remainder likely airing on the broadband ESPN3 outlet. The last time the event was held, the 2010 world championship from Manchester, England, had only the championship game live on ESPNU.

U.S. Lacrosse COO Bill Schoonmaker would not reveal specifics on the business arrangement with ESPN beyond saying that ad inventory would be sold by both ESPN and U.S. Lacrosse. However, a source at the all-sports network said that no rights fee is being paid, nor is U.S. Lacrosse paying production costs.

ESPN can now add this event to its other lacrosse programming, which includes extensive coverage of the NCAA Final Four.

There may be as many as 40 nations competing in the world championship, compared to 29 in 2010.

Since the sport has been growing at record levels in the U.S., and well outside of its traditional Northeastern base, officials at the governing body are hopeful that the first world championship in America since 1998 will jump-start the sport commercially.

U.S. Lacrosse estimates that the world championship will attract 150,000 spectators and have a local economic impact of $50 million.

The event, which features national teams, joins ESPN’s NCAA Final Four coverage.
JOHN STROHSACKER / LAXPHOTOS.COM
U.S. Lacrosse and ESPN are selling low- to mid-six-figure annual sponsorships to the governing body and the world championship, targeting the telecommunications, financial services, rental car and airline categories.

“The message we’re taking to [potential] sponsors is that we’re growing, our premier event is here, and this is the best time to get involved,” said Schoonmaker, citing statistics that indicate U.S. lacrosse participation is growing at double-digit rates while most other sports are facing declining participation.

Growth in the sport is also evident within the governing body itself.
Since joining as COO five years ago, Schoonmaker has seen the group’s membership swell to 420,000 and the U.S. Lacrosse employee count increase from 45 to more than 80.

Looking to eventually build a new headquarters and training center, the governing body late last year purchased a 12-acre parcel of land in Sparks, Md., for around $4 million. Now it’s mounting a fundraising campaign to raise $15 million, much of which would be used to build a new headquarters, a hall of fame and a national lacrosse training center, which could serve as a home for the national team. There is no firm timetable for construction, however.

U.S. Lacrosse currently is based in Baltimore.

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