Major League Lacrosse is expanding to include a new team in Atlanta: The Blaze.
“This is a market that we have been looking at now for quite a number of years,” MLL Commissioner David Gross told CNNMoney. “I love Atlanta as a city and we were blown away by the response.”
The team will debut in April 2016, during the regular season, and will become the league’s ninth team. (Unfortunately, no word yet on a mascot.)
The Blaze will play its games at Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
“Everyone has said I have a very unhealthy infatuation with [this stadium],” Gross said. “It’s a perfect MLL venue. It’s intimate but it has all the amenities you want to have in a professional venue.”
Gross said the league took its time and did its due diligence before launching this new team.
“In terms of expansion in general, we take a fairly cautious approach,” Gross said, noting that the league usually hosts “test games” in areas being considered for expansion.
Lacrosse has grown in popularity in the U.S., with participation up 10.9% from 2013 to 2014, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Over two million people played lacrosse last year, and more are getting involved even as participation in popular sports like football, basketball and soccer has fallen.
Lacrosse has even become a popular offering in urban areas. Programs such as New York City’s Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership organization aim to address the sport’s broadening appeal.
Gross said the increased participation and interest in lacrosse has translated into a very talented and competitive pool of players.
While the league is eager to capitalize on the sport’s increasing popularity, Gross reiterated that expansion will take time.
“Houston is a market we have interest in,” Gross said. “We played our All-Star game there and it went very well, but when Houston happens, that’s hard to say.”
Gross said for the moment, he’s focused on Atlanta and hiring a head of ticket sales for the new team.
For fans eager to get their fill of lacrosse before the end of the season, the Major League Lacrosse championship game will be hosted at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Saturday.
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