Commissioner David Gross has been infatuated with placing a Major League Lacrosse franchise at Kennesaw State’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium since the first time he stumbled across the site while watching cable television in 2010.
After a few false starts over the past two years, his dreams came to fruition Friday when the Atlanta Blaze was introduced as the league’s newest franchise. The expansion team will begin play in the 2016 season and become the MLL’s ninth team.
“I got a great text from a friend this morning that said, ‘MLL to Atlanta … didn’t see that coming … said no one,’ followed by ‘worst kept secret in sports,’” Gross said. “Today I finally get to say it’s not my desire to have a team, we have a team.”
The Blaze becomes the second professional lacrosse team to join the Atlanta landscape this year. Earlier this spring the indoor National Lacrosse League’s Minnesota Swarm announced a move to Gwinnett County. Lacrosse now has a professional footprint in the northeast and northwest suburbs.
“Anytime you can add a professional sports league to Atlanta, it’s huge,” said Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council.
The process to select players will begin in September, when existing teams submitted a list of protected players. The expansion draft will begin in October, and by November the Blaze will have the 13-15 players who will make up the core of their first team. The college draft will be held in January. The season begins in April.
The majority owner will be Peter Trematerra, a custom home builder and developer from Gainesville, Fla. The team president will be Kevin O’Leary, a longtime referee and former college coach. The organization is looking for a potential Atlanta-based minority owner.
“We talked to a lot of different groups,” Gross said. “Peter had the understanding of what it was going to take. You’ve got to be involved in the community, you’ve got to go door to door, you’ve got to ask someone for their support and not be afraid of them saying no.”
The ownership group said it would be active in the community with clinics for players and coaches. For the first season the team will offer free admission to local firefighters and other first responders.
“We’ve got to attract the lacrosse fans, but we’ve got to attract other fans, too,” O’Leary said. “We will be out in the community. We know it’s a long-term process.”
O’Leary said a reasonable attendance goal for the first year is 4,000 per game, although he acknowledged that figure may be on the low side.
Kennesaw State has carved a niche as an ideal host for lacrosse. The ACC and the Atlantic Sun Conference will have their championship games at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
The team already is accepting deposits for season tickets at www.AtlantaBlaze.com.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.