City nets lacrosse event for 2009-11

National convention last held here in 2003

August 17, 2006|By JUNE ARNEY | JUNE ARNEY,SUN REPORTER

The US Lacrosse national convention returns to Baltimore for three years in 2009 - to a city known as the capital of lacrosse and home to its museum and National Hall of Fame.

The winter convention, which features clinics for coaches and officials of both men's and women's lacrosse, was last held in Baltimore in 2003 and is now booked for the Baltimore Convention Center from 2009 to 2011.

In recent years, it has been held in Philadelphia.

"We were working on this for a long time," Ronnie L. Burt, interim president and chief executive officer of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, said yesterday.

"We looked at all the factors that made Philadelphia attractive to them. And we put something more competitive on the table that would make them want to come to Baltimore," Burt said.

The convention is expected to generate an economic impact of about $13 million over the three years.

It includes a hall of vendors displaying goods and services and also features business meetings related to the sport, including annual meetings of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors.

Although US Lacrosse officials have said they wanted to come to Baltimore in recent years, the city's convention bureau failed to come up with a winning deal.

Burt said he tried to change that by attending the 2006 convention in Philadelphia, "to get the feel of it, to walk the show and to let them know of our interest."

Until 2005, hotel space had been adequate to house the convention. That was the first year it required a convention center, but officials chose Philadelphia, where it will continue to run for the next two years.

"We are extremely excited to bring the premier educational lacrosse event to our hometown of Baltimore in 2009-2011," Joshua Christian, managing director of programs and services for US Lacrosse, said in a statement released yesterday. He did not return calls for comment.

With an estimated 5,000 expected to attend the convention in coming years, the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel, slated to open in August 2008, will play a prominent role, Burt said.

It helped to level the playing field as Baltimore convention officials vied for the lacrosse business.

`A lot more stories'

"I think you're going to see and hear a lot more stories this fall about the success that this hotel is going to allow us to have with conventions," Burt said.

US Lacrosse has made its home at the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus.

But recently the organization has been looking at expanding its space - a move that could spirit it away to Syracuse or Long Island, N.Y., other hotbeds of lacrosse culture.

NCAA championships

Again next year, Baltimore will play host to NCAA lacrosse championships - expected to attract 50,000 people, some of the largest-ever crowds in the history of the sport.

Lacrosse fans are an appealing crowd to local businesses because of their upscale demographics which can provide a good payoff to Inner Harbor hotels, bars, restaurants and shops.

june.arney@baltsun.com

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