Chesapeake Bayhawks, Annapolis to host Major League Lacrosse 2019 All-Star Game

David Broughton
Contact Reporterdbroughton@capgaznews.com

Chesapeake Bayhawks president Mark Burdett used to wonder why Major League Lacrosse would play its annual all-star game at a neutral site, in a city that didn’t already have a franchise.

“The concept was noble; I just don’t think the execution was at a level that really excited the fan or ingratiated the fan,’’ Burdett said. “Meaning, if you go to a neutral site and the people are only used to running a football game and all of a sudden now they're running a lacrosse game and the fans aren't that familiar with the sport, if it's disjointed people think the sport is bad or they don't really like the experience.’’

So when MLL commissioner Sandy Brown decided to shift from that strategy and keep one the league’s showcase events in-house, Burdett was at the front of the line.

On Wednesday, Burdett and the Bayhawks were officially announced as the host of next year’s Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game, which will be played June 29, 2019, on the Bayhawks’ home field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It will mark the first time the MLL’s all-star game has been held in Annapolis.

“I think the commissioner was very wise to say I want to go to the environments and to the teams that are running the best game-day experience in the league and build on that with an all-star game,’’ Burdett said.

“I think we run one of the finest game-day experiences in the league. We're honored to play in a phenomenal stadium, a memorial, in a wonderful location in a great town and we think we can not only have a great game day experience but a great weekend event experience,’’ Burdett said. “The commissioner has been to four of our games and he absolutely agreed and he made the commitment to bring it to us in ’19, so we're excited about that.’’

"The MLL All-Star game coming to Annapolis for the first time is big,’’ said Bayhawks owner Brendan Kelly. “We have been working with the commissioner for months to secure the All-Star game. This will be a great weekend event for Annapolis and for all our loyal Bayhawks fans. We will have people traveling from all over the country to come watch the best lacrosse players in the world compete in Maryland, the home of lacrosse."

In addition to Annapolis, future all-star games were also awarded on Wednesday to Atlanta (2020) and Denver (2021).

“The future of Major League Lacrosse is bright and the expanding popularity of the league is exciting and noteworthy,” said Brown. “As MLL’s 20th anniversary approaches, we are proud to showcase our great sport and pay tribute to our history by taking the MLL All-Star Game to our growing fan base in Annapolis, Atlanta and Denver.”

The Boston Cannons served as host of this year’s event, which featured the U.S. National team against a team of MLL stars. The game at Harvard Stadium on June 28 drew 6,589 spectators.

“We’ll start our expectation there and set a goal higher,’’ Burdett said. “Being competitive myself, I like to believe we can generate an audience of 7,500 fans.’’

According to Burdett, the league is expecting upward of three millions dollars in economic impact from this year’s game in Boston.

“I would expect that we could probably do better than that so our hotel, restaurant and event entertainment communities can expect a pretty good infusion of economic impact in what is normally an off weekend,’’ said Burdett, who grew up in Severna Park and became president of the Bayhawks in January, 2017.

This season, the Bayhawks have an average attendance of just under 3,500 per game. Burdett said he expects Saturday’s final regular-season home game against the Denver Outlaws to allow the Bayhawks to finish second in the MLL in attendance behind Denver and ahead of the Dallas Rattlers.

The Bayhawks are currently 8-3 and in playoff contention heading into Thursday’s game at the Atlanta Blaze.

Burdett said he’s not a fan of all-star games that lack intensity or don’t represent the best of the sport. He says that’s never an issue with Major League Lacrosse.

“That is our point of distinction: We're a tier two sport, but we're the only tier two sport with tier one athletes,’’ Burdett said. “If you compare us to the Bowie Baysox, to arena football or even the MLS, they don't have the best best players in the world playing for them and we do. So when you get these showcase events there's nobody better that isn't there. That's the coolness of it.

“So I think for youth players and high school players and even college players, to be able to come out and see what they aspire to be and to get the energy and the speed of the game, I think it's a phenomenal opportunity. And for old guys like me who love the game and can't play anymore, it's just really cool to be around it and see it at its highest level.’’

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