The Premier Lacrosse League is poised to expand its national reach in its fifth season by switching to a more consistent version of its touring model.
In past years the men’s field league has traveled to a combination of repeat locales and previously unvisited sites, but the 2023 schedule attempts to create a greater sense of scheduling stability for the startup.
“In our first four seasons we used a combination of data and sports fan affinity in respective markets to determine where we want to go,” PLL president and co-founder Paul Rabil said in a phone interview. “This year we wanted press our thumbs down on building a consistent schedule of years past that mirrors more of what a sports fan is used to consuming, whether that’s the NFL or NBA.”
The eight-team, single-entity league had an average broadcast viewership of 157,000 last season while playing a mix of college and pro sports venues, and that combination will continue. This year it will return to Columbus, Ohio, for the first time since its inaugural season but this time will play host to matches at Ohio State University’s new lacrosse stadium. The PLL will also make its way back to the Pacific Northwest, with matches set for Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Wash., in August.
The PLL will have a presence at three NFL facilities next season, in some cases using the cozier confines of training facilities rather than a full-size stadium. The first such visit will take teams to the Minnesota Vikings practice venue (TCO Stadium) near Minneapolis, where the league looks to capture the nontraditional lacrosse market.
The league will also return to the Dallas Cowboys training grounds at The Star in July before heading to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in September. The home of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution will again host the quarterfinals. Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft is an investor in the PLL.
The semifinals will take place on Long Island at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium, and this year’s championship will be held for a third time at Subaru Park, the Chester, Pa., home to Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
While the PLL is poised to reach recently activated markets like Charlotte and Salt Lake City, it also looks to double down on its strong returning markets in Fairfield, Conn., Albany, N.Y., Denver and Baltimore.
The league, which completed a Series D funding round last year, prides itself on innovation but also wants to zero on a more consistent schedule as it grows. Rabil says the long-term idea of growing deeper roots, especially in top performing markets, isn’t only to create stronger fan awareness but also to improve the experience for players and staff overall. He is not expecting a quick transition, though.
“We’ve found a lot of success in the touring model, so how we go about doing that would be a robust [process],” said Rabil, who mentioned it would involve local and national marketing partners. “I think where we’re at right now is ahead of expectations.”
The PLL was bolstered by a multiyear deal with ESPN in 2021. The league, which reports a 24% increase in ticket revenue year-over-year, also has sponsorship deals with Cash App, Ticketmaster and Gatorade. The PLL is set to host the Championship Series in February in Springfield, Va. The fledgling league hopes the four-team, round robin-style tournament will provide more momentum heading into the season opener at Casey Stadium in Albany on June 2.