Lacrosse league labor dispute puts San Diego Seals' debut on hold

San Diego will have to wait a little longer for professional lacrosse.

The National Lacrosse League on Thursday canceled the first two weeks of the 2018-19 season due to an ongoing labor dispute with its players’ union, wiping out the San Diego Seals’ first game in franchise history.

San Diego was awarded an expansion team in in August 2017 and the Seals were preparing for the Dec. 8 opener against Buffalo at Valley View Casino Center.

The next home game — should the labor dispute be resolved in a timely manner — is scheduled for Jan. 12 against Rochester.

“It’s disappointing, first and foremost, for our season ticket members, fans, corporate sponsors and community partners who have been eagerly awaiting opening night for more than a year — they deserve better,” Seals President Steve Govett said in a statement. “Since the announcement of an expansion team having been awarded to the city of San Diego last August, we’ve worked tirelessly in the local community by attending, participating in, supporting and creating well over 100 local events.”

The labor dispute started when the Professional Lacrosse Players Association opted out of its collective bargaining agreement last November.

The Seals held a non-roster rookie camp in October. However, regular training camps across the league and multiple scrimmages have been delayed and/or canceled as the players’ union worked to add sponsorship, concessions, parking and merchandise sales to players’ pay.

The league had offered a 25-percent increase in salary and benefits for players in a stop-gap proposal, which included, according to a league statement, “a fair calculation of bonuses to be paid to the players based on attendance growth plus a percentage increase each year to account for growth in all those attendance-related revenue streams.”

The deadline to accept that deal and still start the season on time was Wednesday.

“We believe we must create a partnership for growth with the players, but we must grow together with a strategy that fits within a reasonable business model,” the league’s statement read. “A guaranteed 400 percent increase in expenses without a corresponding guaranteed revenue increase is not something as stewards of the league we should be doing.”

According to USLacrosse Magazine, Peter Schmitz, Professional Lacrosse Players Association president, told Lax Sports Network earlier this week that players want to benefit from several revenue sources.

“Not just tied to ticket revenue, which is what’s been offered, or drop count, which is essentially turnstile count, which is essentially just one of the five buckets of revenue that’s generated off the players’ backs, we want that expanded to the other four, which includes sponsorship, concessions, parking and merchandise sales,” Schmitz said.

The NLL had never previously canceled games due to a labor dispute. The only Seals game scheduled during the first two canceled weeks of the season was the Dec. 8 opener.

Provided the two sides reach an agreement, San Diego is scheduled to play Dec. 22 at Colorado, Dec. 28 at Calgary and Jan. 5 at Saskatchewan before the next scheduled date (Jan. 12) at Valley View Casino Center.

“We will not waver in our promise to provide an unparalleled and affordable fan experience to San Diegans,” Govett said. “The last proposal presented to the players was a fair offer for both sides. It is imperative to responsibly provide a sustainable business model to ensure the long-term viability of the Seals and the other teams across North America.”

jeff.sanders@sduniontribune.com; Twitter: @sdutSanders

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