It’s rare when a franchise shift is made with applause vs. boos, but the ever expanding National Lacrosse League seemed to pull off the unusual Thursday, announcing an AM shift of one of their most storied franchises and replacing it in the same city with the same name with a big name owner whose eyes are using the team to help the economic development of a rebounding area.
Early in the morning the league, which has seen unprecedented growth, financial stability and interest under CEO Nick Sakiewicz, announced that the league finalist Rochester Nighthawks would move north and east, to Halifax, Nova Scotia with owner Curt Styres taking his roster with him to the Maritimes after the upcoming season. While that was met with much expected fanfare in the new home, the city of Rochester got a boost when later in the day it was announced that they would not be losing their team, but would get a new team owned by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the current owners of the Buffalo Bills, Sabres and their rival NLL Bandits.
The second announcement came at an outdoor news conference on the Genesee River side of the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial where Mayor Lovely Warren announced $18 million in improvements to the aging facility where the new lacrosse team, like the current one, will remain a key tenant, also beginning in 2019-20.
“They will have the Knighthawks legacy and we’re very proud to contribute again to western New York and the Rochester community in keeping the team here,’’ Terry Pegula said at the press conference, which was great news for all, end especially for the NLL, founded in 1986, and now expanding this season and next with franchises in Philadelphia and San Diego for this season.
While getting an expansion franchise after almost 25 years in business may seem like a bit of sour grapes for those fans of Central New York, the infusion of cash and ownership to reboot a solid brand is a smart move, creating a pretty unique win-win situation for all, and keeping lacrosse, especially indoor lacrosse, on the upswing.
Crisis averted good news for all on the lax front this week.