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Why the Georgia Swarm's NLL Champion's Cup win should matter to Atlanta sports fans

Discussion in 'NLL News and Rumors' started by Vin, Jun 11, 2017.

  1. Vin

    Vin Well-Known Member


    Why the Georgia Swarm's NLL Champion's Cup win should matter to Atlanta sports fans
    Jun 11, 2017, 4:05am EDT

    Atlanta’s two-decade professional-sports championship dry streak was brought to an end by a team the city’s fans have yet to fully embrace.

    The Georgia Swarm (17-5) beat two-time defending National Lacrosse League Champions Saskatchewan Rush (14-8) 15-14 in an on-the-road overtime victory to bring the Swarm its first championship in franchise history, and Atlanta its first major professional sports championship in more than 20 years and third in city history. Champion's Cup MVP Lyle Thompsonscored the winning goal after receiving a one-handed pass from his older brother Miles Thompson (interview with Lyle and Miles here).

    An Atlanta team has not won a major professional sports championship since the Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series in 1995. The Atlanta Chiefs became the first professional Atlanta team to win a championship in 1968 by beating the San Diego Toros in the North American Soccer League Final.

    The win is bittersweet for Georgia’s first professional lacrosse team, which had the second-lowest 2017 regular-season attendance average in the NLL, and Atlanta, a city whose sports fans are still recovering from the Atlanta Falcons’ recent nail-biting Super Bowl 51 loss to the New England Patriots. According to league data, the Swarm had a 2017 average attendance of 3,950 in a venue that can hold 11,500 (The team had an average attendance of 4,667 during its 2016 inaugural season in Georgia). Average attendance in the NLL for the 2017 season was 9,454 with the Buffalo Bandits taking the top spot at 15,148 (Saskatchewan was No. 2 at 14,921).

    Things could be on the upswing for the new kings of Atlanta sports, and the game of lacrosse, in Georgia if the Swarm continues making it to the playoffs. This season was the Swarm's first as a Georgia-based team in the post-season where it saw its average attendance skyrocket to 7,012, placing them in the middle of the pack for post-season teams. The team’s highest attendance of the year was 7,642 when it hosted the Rush for Game 1 of the Champion's Cup series, which featured a halftime performance by Atlanta rapper turned media mogul Ludacris.

    While taking a break from celebrating with the team after the win in Saskatchewan, Canada, Swarm President Andy Arlotta, who owns the team with his father Swarm General Manager John Arlotta, said “organizations win.”

    “This is a great thing for the franchise and fans of Georgia,” he said. “Since Day 1, it was a goal to bring home a Champion’s Cup.”

    In a league where some team’s are backed by the pockets of National Hockey League teams, the Arlottas are in the group of self-financed or independent ownership organizations. The Swarm played 11 seasons in St. Paul, Minn., alongside the NHL's Minnesota Wild, which were founders of the Swarm. The 2017 season was the ninth under Arlotta ownership.

    “There are three teams that are owned by NHL franchises and the other six are independently owned,” Andy told Atlanta Business Chronicle in a 2015 interview.“...The three NHL franchise owners do very well and are in NHL rinks.”

    However, Andy explained as independent owners, they think “a smaller, less-expensive arena [could] be a lot more successful."

    “Scaling down was one of the objectives we had,” he said. “In Minnesota, we were 18,500 [seats],” he said. “Here we will be 11,500. We think that’s an ideal size for our game and for us as independent owners as well. On the financial side, it’s a little less expensive of an arena ( Infinite Energy Arena) to be in than some of these very large, very nice NHL rinks.”

    Professional lacrosse isn’t a game most owners dive into expecting to make money. In fact, John, the lead donor and namesake of the University of Notre Dame’s lacrosse stadium, has jokingly called it his “most expensive fantasy team.”

    However, building a winning team has been part of the family-owned team's strategy to build the sport and team ever since it moved to Georgia in 2015 after John resorted to pleading with the Minnesota fans for their help. The Swarm drew an average attendance of almost 8,700 people per game in Minnesota in 2014. But it was still losing money, forcing the Arlottas to move the team to Georgia in May 2015, which Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported.

    “Unfortunately, our success on the field and our assistance with the growth of lacrosse in Minnesota has come at the price of tremendous financial losses that are not sustainable over another five years of ownership,” John wrote in a message to Minnesota fans.

    During the team’s introductory press conference in Georgia, John told the Chronicle he was going to build towards a championship.

    “The first priority is always to build a championship team,” he said. “The second priority is getting into the community and giving back, while building support.”

    John noted his third priority is a league mission as well as a franchise mission.

  2. Vin

    Vin Well-Known Member

    “We want to build a long-term relationship with the community that we can build on,” he said. “We want to really grow our league into a top notch league.”

    Arlotta added working with his son is a huge reason why he got involved with the team.

    “It’s also a hobby of mine in a lot of ways,” he said. “As general manager, I really love getting to know the players, understand the game of lacrosse even more, and pick the right team with the right people."

    However, John noted the team must be treated "as a business first and foremost.”

    “Like any other business you have the factors of success you have to address," he said. "We want to be successful as a business and that includes being successful on the floor.”

    The Arlottas know a thing or two about how to build and run a business. John Arlotta is the current chairman and CEO of eviCore Healthcare. He has both public and private company CEO experience with management experience that includes turnarounds and start-ups. Over the course of his career, John Arlotta has completed an Initial Public Offering, guided a company through an 18-month hostile takeover, sold three health care companies and has worked either directly or as an advisor for private equity firms assisting with healthcare product and service portfolio companies. Before joining eviCore, John Arlotta was special advisor to General Atlantic LLC; chairman, president and CEO of Coram Inc. (Coram merged with Apria Healthcare in December 2008); chairman and CEO of NeighborCare Inc. (Neighborcare was sold to OmniCare in July of 2005); president and chief operating officer of Caremark Rx; and chairman, president and CEO of HealthCall Corp. Andy Arlotta also has business leadership experience working with the Fortune 500 company Cardinal Health as well as Beverly Enterprise and Managed Healthcare Associates.

    John said while he measures the success of his other business ventures by financial metrics, he measures the success of his lacrosse business by the growth of the sport.

    “We don’t make money in this business,” he told the Chronicle after the 2016 season. “We’re doing this because we’re passionate about lacrosse and growing the sport — that’s the rationale for doing it.”

    With the league’s 2016 hiring of Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, who came to the NLL from Major League Soccer, where he most recently served as co-founding partner and CEO the ownership entity of the MLS team Philadelphia Union, the NLL has a commissioner that's behind the Arlotta's vision.

    “It’s all about building strong relationships with the corporate community, with the fans and the fans base for ticket sales and TV ticket sales, and it’s all about building relationships with the media and the broadcasts partners,” Sakiewicz told the Chronicle Jan. 7 before the team’s inaugural home opener at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Ga.“…We see it everywhere in different sports. We see it in the work Atlanta United has done to build their season ticket base. What [Home Depot co-founder and owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United] Arthur Blank has done with the Falcons and his new soccer team is phenomenal. Take a page out of their book because it’s a good book to read.”

    The Swarm must have taken that advice to heart because it gained support from the Falcons and United in addition to the Atlanta Braves Atlanta Hawks and former pro athletes like Jeff Francoeur, Jamal Anderson, Brian Finneran and Chuck Smith on social media during its championship run. The club also strengthened its relationship with the corporate community before the 2017 inking sponsorship deals with six new Georgia-based corporate partners, including Atlanta-based home improvement giant The Home Depot Inc.(NYSE: HD), the Chronicle exclusively reported. The others are Atlanta-based The Carland Group, Atlanta-based Axiom Corp., Atlanta-based Allgood Plumbing, Electric, Heating & Cooling, Austell, Ga.-based IceByrd Frozen Yogurt and Suwanee, Ga.-based Clayton Dental. The team also scored local deals with three major national companies: Coraopolis, Pa.-based Dick’s Sporting Goods, Milwaukee, Wisc.-based Miller Brewing Co. (Miller Lite) and San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc.

    “Atlanta is unbelievable in terms of what it has done over the last couple of decades in terms of growth. The population down there and demographics are phenomenal,” Sakiewiczsaid. “The ingredients are there. It’s a great venue, they’re in a great location for the sport and John Arlotta is a terrific, very committed owner. He believes in the city and the market.”

    The future in Georgia is looking bright for Swarm. Game 2 of the Champion's Cup was lived streamed on Twitter and broadcast over the air on 1230 The Fan 2/106.3FM, the first time that a Swarm game was broadcast live in the Atlanta market.

    “We’re proud to call Georgia home and are looking forward to growing this franchise,” Andy said.

  3. swami24

    swami24 Well-Known Member

    The writer had me with the use of the word "major."
    smurf666 likes this.
  4. chuckster

    chuckster Well-Known Member

    And they lost me with this sentence.

    "Champion's Cup MVP Lyle Thompsonscored the winning goal after receiving a one-handed pass from his older brother Miles Thompson"

    It was Miles that scored the winning goal, not Lyle. :oops:
    smurf666 likes this.
  5. swami24

    swami24 Well-Known Member

    That is a big detail miss in an article that is otherwise a big boost to awareness in the region. Will the article and win matter, time will tell.
  6. Vin

    Vin Well-Known Member

    It's a very good article, but the readership is limited since it is one of the "[city] Business Journals".
    Still, I think it helps and several ways and there are lessons to be learned by the rest of the league.

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