Cedar Lane Regional Park, a sports venue tucked away in Abingdon, just off Route 136, looked to be filled to capacity Saturday morning as girls lacrosse players from across the country convened for the third annual Lax Inception Tournament.
John McHugh, executive director of the Cedar Lane Sports Foundation, on-site that morning to unveil the park's brand new, state-of-the-art video scoreboard, explained that the people there represented a fraction of the expected attendees, and that Saturday's activities were nothing out of the ordinary.
"What you see right now is probably only 10 or 20 percent of the people who will come through here for this tournament," McHugh said after he had unveiled the venue's newest addition, a 17-by-9-foot video screen that was installed on the park's turf field.
"We're expecting to get 20,000 people here over the weekend, all told. Next week, we're going to have 200 teams here playing in another tournament."
The new scoreboard and video screen, produced by South Dakota-based Daktronics, were turned on for the first time at 10 a.m. Saturday as tournament games were being played, and after McHugh had addressed a group of executives from the Harford County government and the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Heath, which donated the scoreboard.
"We've been working on this for a few years," McHugh said. "This new scoreboard is a fantastic addition to Cedar Lane Park. It's one of the nicest scoreboards at an amateur facility in the whole country, and I think we're just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do out here at the park. Our partnership with Upper Chesapeake Health has been phenomenal. They're as committed to this community as we are."
The Cedar Lane complex opened in 2008, and since then has hosted a steady stream of lacrosse and soccer events. Saturday's Inception Tournament is three years old and has tripled its number of participating teams since 2011.
"Since we first opened this place, we've had 84 tournaments, hosted 15,000 different teams and have had 1.7 million attendees," McHugh said. "That's an awful lot of people stopping in Harford County. The tournaments have helped put $150 million into the local economy."
The new scoreboard, which was installed during the rainstorms that closed five of the park's fields Saturday, will be able to display scores from any of the 13 playing fields during tournaments.
"I'd like to thank the guys who were out here welding in the middle of a lightning storm, trying to get the scoreboard up and running for us by today," McHugh said. "We had the stress of five straight days of rain leading up to this, but we got it up. Now we'll have the scoreboard available 20 weekends out of the year, for the whole tournament season."
The partnership with Upper Chesapeake Health, the largest health care provider and biggest private employer in Harford County, had Cedar Lane donating $5 to the Kaufman Cancer Center, the newest addition to Upper Chesapeake's Bel Air hospital, for every goal scored on the turf field over the weekend-long Inception tournament. Dean Kaster, a senior vice president with Upper Chesapeake Health, followed McHugh's address, and started things off with a joke.
"I've been watching the play over on the turf field, and every time I see someone score a goal, I hear 'cha-ching,' in my head," he said. "Cedar Lane Park is one of Harford County's hidden jewels. It draws thousands of people each week. Our partnership is a natural fit, because [we] support the health and wellness of young athletes through our orthopedic and sports medicine programs."
After the scoreboard was turned on for the first time, McHugh said he and the Cedar Lane Park Foundation members would be looking for other projects and additions.
"We're always thinking of things that we can add to make this an even better venue," McHugh said. "We're always trying to improve. We're looking to add some locker rooms to the park, and we want to put in a scorers booth where the new scoreboard can be controlled from. Like I said, we're just scratching the surface here. We can add a lot more."