There is a new professional sports team hoping to shake up Dallas and take a bite out of the local sports scene.
The Dallas Rattlers of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) began their season on April 21 with a 15-7 win versus the Chesapeake Bayhawks. The nine-team league includes franchises in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte and New York. The Rattlers, the only team in the MLL that plays their games indoors, open their home schedule at the 12,000-seat Ford Center at The Star in Frisco on Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. against the Denver Outlaws.
“Get the first one off your back and that’s a good one,” said Austin Lee, Dallas Rattlers brand manager about the team’s 1-0 start. MLL teams play a 14-game schedule and then four teams will enter the playoffs in August.
Formerly the Rochester (N.Y.) Rattlers, the team is owned by Jim Davis, founder and chairman of the sports shoes and apparel company New Balance. “When you move a team, you want to have a great venue lined up, and The Star represented that,” Lee said. “This is a new, exciting area and one of the best venues in the country, let alone in our area. This is not some fly-by-night thing. We are here to stay and want to be part of the community.”
Lee promises a complete fan experience. “We are an affordable game,” Lee said. “Tickets start at $20. We provide a full day of entertainment. Two hours before the game, we have the plaza. Live bands will play on stage. We have a vendor village set up. Once the doors open, we will have on-field entertainment. We are trying to provide a full-day experience, not just pop in and watch the game.”
The Rattlers have a 25-man roster, and activate 19 players for each game. It is team and league policy not to discuss salaries. But most of the team, including their best players, relocated to Dallas from Rochester, and new head coach Bill Warder spent the last seven seasons as the Rattlers assistant coach under Tim Soudan.
“When the team was in Rochester, a lot of the players felt the team was up in the air,” Lee said. “They weren’t sure if they were returning. But when they saw the announcement [of moving to Dallas], they signed on. All but two returned, and really only one left because the other became an assistant coach. But when you have a nine-team league, there are a lot of talented players out there.”
The game is played in four 15-minute quarters with a 20-minute intermission. “There are a couple of modifications that make the game super exciting,” Lee said. “We have a two-point line. Similar to basketball, if you should score outside of the arc, you get two points [instead of the typical one point]. And then we have a shot clock on every play. Sixty seconds in which to make a play.”
Unlike college lacrosse, a player can finish his shot inside of the crease. “You get guys emulating ‘Air Jordan,’” Lee said.
Rattlers players wear orange helmets. Both the home and away jerseys feature are a mix of blue and orange with grey accents resembling snake skin. The Rattlers logo, the New Balance logo, the MLL logo and the flag of Texas are incorporated on the jerseys and shorts.
Lee worked for the Florida Launch, based in Boca Raton, before moving on to the Rattlers. He is a Florida native, and relocating to Dallas provided a new experience. “Now that we are here indoors, I really appreciate that. It’s a real hot one out there,” Lee said, referring to the outside stadium on the steamy South Florida coast. “I like the season changes here, which you don’t get down in Florida.”
Lee added: “Again, we offer an affordable experience for fans. We know that there are a lot of sports teams here, but that is one thing that will help us stick out. And I believe in these guys.”
The Rattlers were a playoff team last season and are off to a good start. With the Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks missing the postseason, the Texas Rangers currently in last place in their division and the Dallas Cowboys in limbo, the Metroplex could use a winner and, as every fan here knows, Dallas loves a winner. The Rattlers hope to snake into the playoffs and into the hearts of local sports fans.