Discussion in 'MLL Forum' started by Vin, Jul 24, 2018.

  1. Vin

    Vin Well-Known Member


    The Rattlers moved from Rochester to Dallas prior to the 2018 Major League Lacrosse season. The first home game (April 29) was against the Denver Outlaws, the team that knocked the Rattlers out of the playoffs in 2017.

    The game was tied at 14 and heading into overtime when first-year head coach Bill Warder addressed his team in the huddle.

    “I said, ‘Guys, look around. Look how excited these fans are for you guys to win this game,’” he said. “They looked around and said, ‘This is our house. This is our barn.’ It fueled us, for sure.”

    Ty Thompson scored on a feed from Jordan Wolf to win the game, sending the reported crowd of 7,217 into euphoria.

    Eight games later, the Rattlers are 5-0 at home.

    It’s safe to say after years of relocation rumors and new home fields, the Rattlers are enjoying their new stomping ground.

    “The league, our owners, [team president] Bill Goren, they’ve been great so far,” said Rattlers defender John Lade. “They’ve made it feel like home at Dallas. It really makes us feel like a permanent fixture in the city of Dallas.”

    The Rochester Rattlers were an original Major League Lacrosse franchise. In the first eight seasons of existence, the Rattlers made the playoffs five times, and won the championship in 2008. After that season, the team dissolved, however, and the rights of the players were sold to an organization that would become the Toronto Nationals.

    After two seasons without a Major League Lacrosse franchise, professional field lacrosse returned to Rochester when the Chicago Machine moved to upstate New York. The team struggled the first three seasons but soon became one of the best teams in the league once again, reaching the playoffs three of the next four seasons — the one miss coming in 2016 when the team tied with six other teams for first place in the league but did not make the playoffs due to tiebreakers — and playing in two consecutive MLL championships.

    Once again, winning records did not help the Rattlers. From 2013 to 2017, the Rattlers finished in the bottom three in attendance each season, finishing last three times. Rumors of relocation circulated for years, going back to 2013 when the team was thought to be headed to Atlanta.

    “I played for five years in Rochester, and I want to say four of those years ended with some type of speculation we’d be moving. You almost became tone deaf to it,” midfielder John Ranagan said. “We gave our last-ditch effort to the commissioner to keep us in Rochester, and we did for one year, but we had an idea in that Denver locker room [after the 2017 semifinals] it would be the end of the Rattlers in Rochester.”

    The decision finally came in November of 2017 to move the team to Frisco, Texas, to play at The Ford Center at The Star, where the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys practice, and the site of the 2017 MLL Championship.

    “When [former MLL Commissioner David Gross] reached out, it was intriguing because I was creating something new in the Dallas market,” Goren said. “I’ve been with a lot of other teams, making them better, changing philosophies and strategies, but this was from scratch. That was intriguing.

    “With the support of New Balance, we’d be able to do everything we were promised,” he added. “We could have a beautiful building, have a great team, and promote a team how it should be done.”

    The news was bittersweet.

    Most of the core had been in Rochester for many years and said they would miss the fans that supported them.

    “The fans that always came to the Rochester games brought a ton of energy. The atmosphere was awesome,” Lade said. “There weren’t a lot of fans that came out, but the ones that did were a good home crowd to play for.”

    On the plus-side, it gave the players — many of whom filed for Player Movement — much needed clarity on what the future held. Of the nine Rattlers players that filed for Player Movement, eight re-signed with the team.

    Although there was disappointment that head coach Tim Soudan— in charge for six seasons — was not going to join the team in Dallas, the goal for those returning players was very clear: win the championship together.

    “Every person who is back with the Rattlers, I don’t think it was much of a decision once it was set we were going to go to Dallas and Coach Warder was going to be around,” Ranagan said. “John Galloway was the guy spearheading it. When he said he was in and wanted to give one more shot, it didn’t take a lot of arm twisting for everybody to get on board.”

    While the team finally had a permanent home, success was not a guarantee. The sports scene in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a crowded one. Dallas and its neighboring cities are home to teams in the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB, as well as having two minor league baseball teams.

    Having a partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, however, has helped the Rattlers with the transition. Cowboys and Rattlers players participated in a joint skills challenge, and the five-time Super Bowl champions help to promote the team on social media.

    Getting to play in a facility operated by an NFL team has been a major upgrade for Rattlers players.

    “When you play a professional sport, the highest level, and you list the things we went through in Rochester and the things that make guys happy, like we have a catered team dinner, and you’d think they were buying us apartments in Dallas,” Ranagan said. “The turf is apparently a new technology. I’ve never run on anything in it. You’re happy you’re playing indoors because it’s pretty hot in the summer time. We have a huge locker room. All that stuff is taken care of. It’s those little things you had to worry about in Rochester. Will the balls be at practice? Are we practicing? Do we have a place to practice? All those little things are off your mind because they’re taken care of for you. You don’t have to worry about administrative things. You’re focused on playing lacrosse.”

    Being able to relax and focus strictly on lacrosse has been huge for the Rattlers. After starting the season 3-2, Dallas won six consecutive games and became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot.

    The Rattlers players hoped that, in addition to putting themselves in position to win a championship, success in the regular season would make a good impression on the fans in Dallas. The early sampling suggests the spectators are happy with the product on the field.

    Through Week 12, Dallas is second in the league in average attendance, with 4,689 fans per game, trailing only Denver. Prior to Denver’s annual Mile High Fourth of July game, which drew 29,973 people, Dallas was actually first in the league in attendance.

    The fans aren’t just showing up, either; they are demonstrating a strong knowledge of the game of lacrosse.

    “There’s a lot of IQ down there,” Lade said. “Lacrosse has been there 10 to 15 years now. A lot of guys live and coach there. You have these guys that played at a high level in college, and they’re spreading the game. Their IQ is very high because some of these guys going to Texas coaching and helping players learn the game of lacrosse down there.”

    The consensus from Warder, Ranagan, and Lade was that, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter where the team played; as long as they were together, this team would be able to work together, overcome adversity, and compete with any team in the league.

    Doing it in Dallas, in front of bigger crowds and in a nice stadium, however, is something Ranagan said they are all happy to be a part of.

    “It certainly exceeded a lot of peoples’ expectations, and that’s not to say we weren’t expecting much, but when you come from where we came from, you learn not to expect much,” he said. “We could’ve continued playing at a high school in some small town, that didn’t matter to the guys, but to do it in a beautiful and fun facility has been more of an icing on the cake thing.”
  2. Wings-4-Life

    Wings-4-Life Well-Known Member

    Pics or it didn't happen.
  3. AmericanRockFan

    AmericanRockFan Well-Known Member

    It was nice to see this. A lot of times when a team moves it seems like the fans who were going to games get forgotten about and players/management discuss a lack of support in the previous market. It's nice to see someone give the Rochester fans that were showing up a shoutout.

    Anyhow, I hope Dallas gets an NLL team one day. I'm not guaranteeing it would be successful for decades or anything, but I think it really could be a quality untapped market, especially if someone like Mark Cuban gets involved.
  4. chuckster

    chuckster Well-Known Member

    The most that Rochester averaged (at least, from what is recorded) was just over 4,300 so Dallas is not far above that. Overall, the MLL is only about 300 off it's overall average from last year with 2 more full summer weekends to come.

    FWIW, the MLL average is skewed by a crowd of 29k that attended a game in Denver on July 4. If you subtract that game out, the MLL is about 800 per game off their total from last year.
  5. Vin

    Vin Well-Known Member

    I started doing some newspaper R&D on lacrosse in "The Metroplex" which is the nickname of the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metropolitan area. It seems the East Coast transplants are not doing a bad job spreading the game there. I'm not saying DFW will become a lacrosse hotbed, but, in time, it could very well become another Colorado.

    So, yeah, let's hope there will be a secure NLL team there within 10 years.
  6. dougm

    dougm Well-Known Member

    my bet is that they are one of the expansion teams
  7. Andrew GEA

    Andrew GEA Guest

    If I'm correct Rochester folded in 08 and moved to Toronto where they won the championship in 09 and now they fold in 17 and have good odds at will it all after relocating this year (18) in Dallas . Weird stuff.

Share This Page