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Thursday, February 24, 2011

2012 MCLA Tournament

Those who follow the MCLA know that 2011 is the last year the National Tournament will be held at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver. The MCLA is accepting bids for the next three tournaments, and you can view their Request for Proposals here (pdf link).

MCLA Fan has started running down some potential candidates, and you can see where I'm going with this...

Detroit - Hmmmm…geographically not awful, but are there any sites? No


In downtown Detroit, no, there probably aren't any great sites (we'll come back to this in a moment). HOWEVA, metro Detroit, particularly Oakland County and Washtenaw County, is home to one of the nation's fastest-growing lacrosse areas, including one of the country's all-time most successful high school programs not on the East coast in Birmingham Brother Rice.

The Prelims

Here are the requirements for facilities, per the MCLA (relevant points only):

III.1 Fields (Preliminary Games)

- 6, full-size contiguous fields (4 game fields and 2 practice fields)

- Lined in accordance with NCAA standards

- Additional warm-up space

- Team Benches for each team side

- Bleachers for spectators on each field (capacity minimum: 400)

- One field set up in a stadium configuration for feature games

- All-weather fields preferred

- On-site lighted fields required

- Electronic scoreboard on each field is required

- Raised and covered scoring table

The only true problem I can see with a metro Detroit bid is that the fields in question would not be contiguous. However, take a hypothetical Birmingham bid into account.

Brother Rice, Seaholm, Groves, and Country Day are all within a couple miles of each other (the furthest, Country Day and Seaholm, are 1.9 miles apart), with Cranbrook-Kingswood and a couple Southfield schools not far away.

All of them meet all the relevant requirements with turf fields (though Brother Rice is not lighted), and have multiple other fields on-campus that could serve as practice areas. The "stadium configuration" would certainly be no problem, as most competition could be in high school football stadiums.

As for an Ann Arbor-area bid, the same ideas apply. Pioneer, Gabriel Richard, Huron, Greenhills, and UM's Soccer Stadium all meet the requirements, though they're a little further apart than are the schools in Birmingham/Bloomfied Hills.

The Finals

Here are the MCLA's requirements for the semi-final and final venue:

III.2 Stadium (minimum 4,000 seats, used to host semi-finals & finals)

- Located on the same site of the preliminary round fields or within ten (10) miles from the field complex or accommodations.

- Lined in accordance with NCAA standards

- Electronic Scoreboard & PA System

- Locker Rooms

- Press Box and Lights

- Raised covered scoring table

- Wireless internet accessibility

- All-weather field preferred

- Permanent restrooms or portable toilets

- Complimentary parking for up to 500+

Pontiac Silverdome and Michigan Stadium are the obvious venues for each respective location, and either would be the coolest thing since sliced bread. Or even cooler. They would not only meet every requirement, but go above and beyond. A hypothetical Ann Arbor bid would have a couple other options (including UM Soccer Stadium - an absolutely magnificent venue, though it's on the smaller side), and I wouldn't be surprised if the same held true for Birmingham.

Much more than this, the venues are convenient to the burgeoning lacrosse communities in their areas, which could bring out a much better fan contingent than we've seen in the prior two Championship venues:

(Photos from The Athletic Image)

A third option is on the table, though it would require some relaxing of this "10 mile" stricture: Ford Field. An NFL-caliber stadium (despite its lack of an NFL-caliber team HEYOOOOO!) that is accustomed to hosting high school and other smaller events, its field is plenty big enough, and since there's no football in the spring, might even be able to get a full line job with no football markings (for the right price, of course). That does, however, open you up to the possibility of an empty stadium like those above.

Overhead Requirements

A Vendor village, game management staff, concessions, etc. should be easy to come by either with volunteers from the community or contracted out to local companies. There are plenty of local businesses that support the lacrosse community.

Hotels may have to be spread out across the community (475 rooms are needed at the peak occupancy for the tournament), but Southeast Michigan is familiar with hosting big events, and there are plenty of options nearby. In Ann Arbor, of course, the hotel infrastructure is well-equipped to hold 100K eight times every fall, so no issues there.

As for transportation, well, part of Detroit's original lure to MCLA Fan was that its airport is a Delta hub - and DTW is less than 30 miles from Birmingham and 20-some miles from Ann Arbor.


Aside from those mentioned above (preliminary fields not being all at the same site), there are a couple drawbacks to the plan. Particularly Ann Arbor, I'm not too sure how keen the MCLA would be at having a member school hosting tournament events in its own facility.

That's no problem with a Birmingham bid, of course, but the availability of the Silverdome or Ford Field (and the distance problem with Ford Field) could be a hindrance.

Either way, I think an enormous boost in attendance over the past couple sites is definitely possible - though not guaranteed - and the increase in revenue and exposure for the league and its programs could wash out many drawbacks.

In Conclusion

Anybody who's more connected in the lacrosse community than I am, I encourage putting together at least a prospective bid (due to the MCLA by April 1st). Even though landing the tournament may be a longshot this time around, it could help lay the groundwork for future tournaments.

And it would definitely be a boost to a local economy that could definitely use it.

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