New league promises a whole new lacrosse experience at Gillette Stadium
Premier Lacrosse League co-founder Paul Rabil is getting set for his most exciting venture yet, when his new professional league opens play this weekend at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Wearing two hats — one as an operator and the other as a midfielder for Atlas LC, one of the league’s six teams — Rabil is eager to get this endeavor off the ground.
“It’s really exciting because we re-created the professional lacrosse model to replicate what the college final four has done for decades,” Rabil said. “That’s bringing in the best teams in the world comprised of the best players to a premium venue over the course of a weekend.”
Rabil’s idea was simple: solve the problem of why professional lacrosse seemingly had hit a ceiling while the rest of the sport continued to increase in participation numbers. And what Rabil has done has the potential to change not just professional lacrosse, but the entire non-core-sports pro landscape.
“If we can come into a market and showcase the integrity of competition but also give flexibility to sports fans and families to attend a game that fits into their schedule, that’s another problem solved,” Rabil said. “We also look at NASCAR and UFC as prime examples.”
Over the course of two days, fans will experience five games, both men’s and women’s. In addition, the league will bring a lacrosse festival to each venue, featuring promotions, fastest-shot contests, live music, fan fests, and beer gardens.
“Whether you’re a lacrosse fan or a sports fan, and you want to see high-octane competition, that will be there,” Rabil said. “This event-like atmosphere takes place to engage all our fans. All of our games being captured on the NBC Sports family of networks elevates the event that much more.”
On the men’s side, there will be two games Saturday, with Archers and Chrome playing the inaugural contest. Chrome is coached by Dom Starsia, a four-time NCAA champion at the helm for the University of Virginia.
Chaos and Whipsnakes will play the second game. Whipsnakes features more than 20 players out of the University of Maryland, a program known for churning out professionals.
“Part of the way these teams were formed at the outset was around chemistry,” Rabil said. “To bulk them all together I think is going to be really exciting, to not only see their chemistry but to also aggregate a most-traveled fan base.”
Sunday’s lone men’s contest pits Rabil’s Atlas team against Redwoods. Rabil will be facing off against former Johns Hopkins teammate Kyle Harrison, with both players combining strength, speed, and power.
Atlas’s Trevor Baptiste and Redwoods’s Greg Gurenlian, both Team USA faceoff men and among the best in the sport, will spar throughout the game. And in goal for Atlas will be 6-foot-4-inch, 265-pound Scott Rodgers, one of the largest athletes and personalities in lacrosse.
The second-year Women’s PLL will play one game each day. The defending champion Command take on the Fire at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, following the conclusion of the men’s games. And on Sunday, the Pride and the Fight will open the day with an 11:30 a.m. matchup.
“To be able to share the field with the women, I think, only elevates our sport,” Rabil said. “For a league in its inaugural season and the WPLL in its second season to align this quickly is the fastest track to continued success for both of us.”
So why make Boston the first stop? In addition to having history here, Rabil targeted some of the most premium venues and markets across the country. Massachusetts also has the largest recreational lacrosse organization in the country, the Mass. Bay Youth Lacrosse League.
“It was a really opportunistic location for us and we jumped at,” Rabil said. “That destination and that stadium was the perfect fit for us. They’ve hosted lacrosse games there before and it is the epicenter of champions.”
Hoping to grow the sport, Rabil has also launched the PLL Academy and has partnered with US Lacrosse, which will hold select tryouts for the newly formed U15 and U17 systems. The Academy Youth Pro Day and the tryouts will be held Sunday at Empower Field House.
“We have the best coaches and players in the world, and those two cohorts of people care about instruction and giving back,” Rabil said. “To not only go to the markets that we’re playing in but go to new markets in the future to instruct how and what it takes to be the best at lacrosse is something so integral to the sport’s future.”
The weekend schedule
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
PLL: Archers vs. Chrome, 1 p.m.
PLL: Whipsnakes vs. Chaos, following first game
WPLL: Command vs. Fire, 6:30 p.m.
WPLL: Pride vs. Fight, 11:30 a.m.
PLL: Atlas vs. Redwoods, 2 p.m.