Outdoor lacrosse to bloom in T.O.

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

The price was right for Toronto's newest pro sports team and they hope to make their product affordable to fans in a troubled economy.

The Toronto Nationals were unveiled yesterday, replacing the Rochester Rattlers in the six-team Major League Lacrosse loop. The outdoor cousin of the NLL's Toronto Rock will be based at BMO Field. Just 34 days after the Rattlers' demise amid tough times in that town, three limited partners and two businesses from the Oakville- Hamilton area bought an expansion team for an estimated $1 million.

"Being in a tough market, we had excellent terms for the payment of the fee to what we'd have paid a couple of years ago or what we might have paid years from now (in better times)," said Stuart Brown, who is serving as Nats' president and general manager. Their six-game home schedule will see season's tickets for BMO's lower bowl between $90 and $402 with individual prices to be announced later. The league hopes for a TV deal by 2010.

MLL commissioner David Gross said he coveted the Toronto market for years since the Rock had roared to prominence, convinced it could fly in a crowded sports scene if marketed properly.

"When we put a team in Denver a few years ago, everyone told us that market was too crowded, but now it's our most successful team," Gross said. "We're not one of the big four sports, but we have the best players in the world in our league."

SHARED OPERATIONS

The Rock and Nats will share business operations and the league has arranged for many of the Rochester players to relocate in Toronto, including Orangeville's Brodie Merrill, the league's defensive player of the year.

"It was a logical move for those guys and we've added a few Western Canadian guys," Brown said.

"The owners are doing it for the right reasons, for the grassroots level, for the Canadian national team (which will make the Nats their home base) and for the Iroquois national team (which will also supply players)."

The nine-year-old MLL differs from the NLL in larger playing surface, a 60-second shot clock and a two-point arc. Toronto's first game is on the road against the Washington Bayhawks on May 15, with the home opener May 22 against the Chicago Machine.


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