The National Lacrosse League has announced that the Washington Stealth will be relocating to Vancouver for the 2014 season.
The Stealth had been extremely successful on the floor during their four-year tenure in Everett, Wash. They played in the Champion's Cup three times in four years, including a win in 2010, with their sole off-year being 2012 when head coach Chris Hall missed a significant amount of time while battling cancer.
They were never able to build a strong fanbase, however.
Playing in Comcast Arena in Everett, sellouts of the 8,149-seat venue were rare. In the 2013 season, the best they managed was 7,023 fans in the home opener, they never broke 5,000 in any other game and averaged a league-worst 4,184 in attendance per game.
Although that was a slight increase from 2012 when they brought in a paltry 3,893 fans per game, it still meant they were several thousand below the league average.
Their second-best-attended home game was, in fact, the Champion's Cup game which was not played in Comcast Arena. Due to scheduling conflicts, the Stealth were forced to move north of the border and host the game from the Langley Event Centre in Langley, BC, and the lacrosse hotbed sold out the 5,200 seat venue.
Starting in January, the Vancouver Stealth will now be calling the Langley Event Centre their permanent home, so it would seem the playoff experiment was a success.
Vancouver has not had an NLL franchise since the Ravens folded in 2004. They had tried to make things work for three seasons while playing at General Motors Place (now known as Rogers Arena, current home of the Vancouver Canucks), but weak attendance figures and shaky ownership eventually sunk the team.
The move to Canada means that the NLL now has four teams north of the border and five in the United States.
Although the limited seating capacity of the LEC would still make the Stealth the lowest-attended team in the NLL, bringing in 5,200 fans per game would be a huge step in the right direction for a team that has bounced around from Albany, N.Y. to San Jose, Calif. to Everett, Wash. and now to the Vancouver area.
Improved attendance means better financial stability for the team and, by extension, better stability for the league.
That's nothing but good news for everyone involved.
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