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Premier Lacrosse League to return to Homewood Field in Baltimore in 2021

Paul Rabil issued the challenge.

A few hours after the Premier Lacrosse League founded by Rabil and older brother Mike announced Wednesday morning that it will play five games at Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore June 25-27, the younger Rabil was not shy about explaining the reasoning behind returning to Charm City.

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“Baltimore means an extraordinary amount to lacrosse. It is the Mecca of lacrosse,” said Rabil, a three-time first-team All-American midfielder for the Blue Jays and a member of the 2005 and 2007 national championship teams. “I get that I’m biased having attended the university, but if you just look at the track record of the games played, attendance averages, national championships won, first-team All Americans, the first university to have a lacrosse-specific stadium built, there’s so much history not just at Homewood Field, but in Baltimore. So Baltimore naturally has deep, deep roots in the game, and it is a staple for us to not only host a game weekend, but to continue to host game weekends into the future.”

Having said that, Rabil said he expects some backlash from people who consider Long Island, New York, to be the hotbed for lacrosse.

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“But I think I can take it. And the good news is we’re playing on Long Island,” he said, referring to five games July 2-4 at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York. “So maybe we can pit the two game weekends together and check out attendance and see who favors the other.”

After stops at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxoborough, Massachusetts, June 4-6 and Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia, June 11-13, the series will open in Baltimore with the Whipsnakes LC and the Atlas LC on Friday, June 25. A doubleheader the next day will pit the Redwoods LC against the Chaos LC in the first game and the Waterdogs LC and the Archers LC in the second. A second doubleheader on Sunday, June 27 will feature the Cannons LC, the league’s expansion team, versus the Atlas LC in the first game and the Chrome LC versus the Whipsnakes LC in the second.

“We’re excited to welcome the PLL back to Homewood Field,” Johns Hopkins assistant athletic director Brandon Holley said. “The Hopkins community looks forward to seeing our alumni representing their alma mater at the highest level of the sport.”

It will be one of only two opportunities Baltimore-area fans have to view professional men’s lacrosse in person this summer since Major League Lacrosse, which played in the region since 2001, merged with the PLL in December. The PLL will return to the region Sept. 19 when it hosts its championship game at Washington’s Audi Field, home of DC United.

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Rabil said the league had conversations with the Orioles about playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but barriers related to grounds keeping, scheduling and cost tabled those discussions. He said he and others are open to the idea of visiting other lacrosse facilities such as Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore, Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, and the Naval Academy’s Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis — maybe even creating a mini-Olympics format where several games are played at several venues in the same location in a span of a week.

“We’ve got to have vision at the company, and then we also have to make sure we have poise and the attention to detail to focus on the current day in terms of announcing the schedule and having a successful 2021 season,” he said.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league pledged to coordinate with its venue partners to comply with local and state health and safety regulations. That will include measures that could entail seating pods, social distancing, mobile ticketing, hand sanitation stations, and mask requirements for staff and fans.

The league said it will continue to work with a committee of medical and health experts to develop protocols for players, staff and fans as it did last year.

Rabil noted the symbolism of playing at Homewood Field on the campus of the university at the forefront of trying to contain and eradicate COVID-19 and its variants.

“Homewood Field is one the greatest lacrosse venues in the country,” he said. “But attached to Johns Hopkins, the leader in the medical field in understanding and disseminating the right information across the world related to the pandemic, I think this is a location for us that when we look at both the medical and safety protocols and the product fit for lacrosse is one that I would say that jumps out on our schedule.”

The outdoor professional lacrosse league had planned to stage three games at Homewood last summer on June 20-21. Baltimore was slated to be the fourth stop of the season following games at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, Kennesaw State and Stony Brook University on Long Island. But that plan was ultimately waylaid by the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the league organized a quarantined tournament without fans from July 25-Aug. 9 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah.

A total announced attendance of 16,701 watched three games in Baltimore in 2019, a figure headlined by a sold-out crowd of 8,500 for a Saturday night game between the Atlas and Whipsnakes.

The Whipsnakes captured the 2019 and 2020 championships.

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