The Boston Cannons will play their 2015 season at Gillette Stadium because of impending field improvements scheduled for Harvard Stadium, general manager Kevin Barney said Monday.
“There’s always been people down there who have had interest in hosting lacrosse events,” said Barney, citing the successful NCAA lacrosse championships played in Foxborough in 2008, 2009, and 2012. “Probably about two years ago now I started some discussions about them potentially hosting a one-off game, looking at them to host one game and to make an event out of it.”
Talk of Gillette hosting Major League Lacrosse games quickly mounted last summer with the news that Harvard was looking to update its turf field. Harvard was looking to do the updates during the least impactful time of the year, which just so happened to coincide with the Cannons’ 2015 campaign.
“As we went into the fall and got more clarification from Harvard about availability, they were only able to commit to dates after June 1, and with our season starting two months earlier, it became kind of obvious that we wouldn’t be able to put a schedule on at Harvard almost at all. The talks just continued to Gillette about making it our home for the entire season.”
Gillette is set to become the fourth home of the Cannons in their 15-year history. As one of MLL’s inaugural teams in 2001, the Cannons initially played at Cawley Memorial Stadium in Lowell before moving to Nickerson Field at Boston University in 2004. Harvard has served as the home since 2007.
While the move to Gillette is considered temporary in its current state, Barney said he wouldn’t shut the door on a longer arrangement in Foxborough, so long as it benefited the team’s passionate fan base.
“It’s a one-year deal right now,” he said. “I think for both sides we are extremely interested in making this a longer-term deal, but this kind of allows us to see how it works for both sides.
“Our biggest thing will be our response from our fan base. Being out in Foxborough, I see it as a positive because the majority of our fan base comes from the suburbs, so being out there we hope turns into a positive.”
One of the most important aspects of the move from the Cannons’ perspective was the impact on its game-day experience: the tailgating, the on-field activities, and the meet-and-greet sessions that have proven popular with fans.
Gillette will allow for those opportunities and much more, according to Barney.
“Our biggest thing is that this is a big move for our fans, which are all about the game-day experience,” Barney said. “Our stadium partners in the past have been tremendous, but Gillette will provide that next level for our fans.
“We’ve said we need to recreate our team as far as that what we’re looking to build on and off the field. This [move] kind of goes hand in hand.”
The news puts a cap on a monumental week in the franchise’s history. Last Monday, Boston traded three-time league MVP Paul Rabil and two-time All-Star Mike Stone to the New York Lizards in exchange for first-and second-round picks in 2016, a first-rounder in 2017, midfielder Max Seibald, and defenseman Brian Karalunas. The Cannons then doled Karalunas and a seventh-round selection to the Ohio Machine for defenseman Chad Wiedmaier and the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Cannons have four of the top 19 picks in this year’s MLL Collegiate Entry Draft, to be held in Baltimore on Jan. 23.Andrew MacDougall can be reached at email@example.com