- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

While most of the lacrosse world will focus on the NCAA tournament beginning this weekend, another stick-wielding entity will make its debut in the D.C. area.

After spending their first six seasons in Baltimore, the Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse will play their first game in the District. The professional franchise — which pays its players between $10,000 and $18,000 for the 12-game season — will hold its first faceoff Saturday night when it plays host to the Boston Cannons at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax.

The Bayhawks’ five remaining home games will take place at Georgetown University’s Multi-Sport Field, a small, picturesque venue the team expects to fill on a regular basis. Team officials also believe lacrosse will find its niche in a crowded sports marketplace.

“[Georgetown] has a capacity of [about] 3,000, and I think we will draw [about] 3,000,” Bayhawks co-owner and president Jeffrey Harvey said of Georgetown’s stadium. “We are going to grow out of this this year. Next year, we are anticipating a demand of 5,000. We want to build our fan bases to 15,000 to 20,000 within five years.”

The Bayhawks already have sold roughly 1,000 season tickets at $99 a piece. Game day tickets will cost $24 for adults and $19 for children.

MLL is a 10-team league that began in 2001. The Bayhawks were one of the original teams but have never enjoyed much success at the turnstiles. Despite winning two league championships (2001 and 2002), the Bayhawks filled only a small fraction of their first home at M&T; Bank Stadium and never garnered much support after moving to Towson University. Last season, the team averaged about 3,000 fans in an 11,000-seat facility.

Harvey believes it will be much different in the District and is encouraged by interest from local youth leagues and sponsors. The Bayhawks are counting on the rising popularity of the sport at lower levels — particularly in Northern Virginia — to draw fans and generate interest.

The Bayhawks will get their television exposure with two live games on ESPN2 and seven tape-delayed contests on Comcast SportsNet.

The Bayhawks’ roster will have heavy local flavor, including former Maryland stars Bill McGlone, Mike Mollot, Casey Connor and Brendan Healy. Ex-Virginia standouts Ryan Curtis, Kyle Dixon, Matt Ward and Conor Gill also play for Washington.

“I love college lacrosse,” said Ward, the MLL Rookie of the Year last season who attended high school at Landon School in Bethesda. “This is old-school lacrosse, up and down the field. It is not specialized. It is not going to be a final score of 9-8. It is going to be 12-11 at halftime. That is something that I think as a spectator will be more fun to watch.”

There is little question lacrosse has been a boom-sport at the youth and high school levels over the past decade. Saturday night will be the first test of whether the District is ready to support a fledgling professional team.

“I am curious, and I am excited,” Ward said. “It is another opportunity for people to watch a sport that is growing so fast. I think that will bode well for us.”

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