In the summer of 2009, the National Lacrosse League made its way to Everett, Wash. as the Stealth organization relocated from San Jose, Calif. Today, the organization has announced it will once again be moving, this time to Langley, British Columbia.
While the Stealth enjoyed unprecedented success on the floor - reaching the NLL Championship Game three times in four seasons, winning it all in 2010 - the business side of running a professional sports organization has taken its toll over the last four years. Failure to grow attendance and acquire high level sponsorships is what ultimately led to the decision to move the team to the Langley Events Centre.
"I would really like to thank our loyal Washington fans for their support and commitment. I know that many of our fans have done their utmost to help us grow and bring new fans into the game. The loyalty and passion of our Season Ticket Holders is unquestioned by the players, coaches and staff of the Stealth organization," says Denise Watkins, Stealth owner. "We considered a number of options and Langley gave us the best chance to move forward as a business while keeping the Stealth close to its impassioned fans in Washington."
In 2010, the Stealth's first season in Washington, the team's attendance was a league-low 3,944 during the eight-game regular season. Those numbers raised only slightly in 2013 as the team averaged a league-worst attendance of 4,184 per game.
"In our four seasons in Washington the attendance numbers and sponsorship dollars remained virtually unchanged," adds David Takata, Stealth President. "Ultimately, it was time for us to make a business decision to avoid losing the team altogether."
During its tenure in Washington, the Stealth took pride in being a valuable part of the community, in and out of lacrosse. Partnerships with local non-profit organizations such as Providence Comprehensive Breast Center, Northwest Harvest, American Red Cross and others raised thousands of dollars for those organizations.
Within the lacrosse community, the Stealth Lacrosse Academy has introduced hundreds of local lacrosse players to the sport of indoor lacrosse and local camps, clinics and initiatives like the Sticks-2-Schools program have introduced the great sport of lacrosse to even more young athletes throughout the Puget Sound region. The Stealth organization plans to continue growing the sport in the area.
"When we announced the move to Washington in 2009, one of our major goals was to contribute to the growth of the sport in the Pacific Northwest," says Takata. "Watching and being a part of the explosive growth of the sport has been a joy for all of us. We will continue to make that a priority in the future with the continuation of the Stealth Lacrosse Academy and the involvement of Stealth players with youth programs in Western Washington.
The new home of the Stealth organization is the Langley Events Centre, located just 84 miles north of Everett, Wash. The Vancouver Stealth will begin play in their new home at the start of the 2014 NLL season. More information will be forthcoming on how you can join us in Langley, BC to continue to support your Stealth team.