OCEAN CITY — A couple of national lacrosse heavyweights could help elevate the annual Ocean City Lacrosse Classic to a week-long, family-friendly celebration of the sport, resort tourism officials learned this week.
At Monday’s Tourism Commission meeting, Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) President Steve Pastusak briefed committee members on a proposed expansion of the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic, which has been played in and around the resort area every August since its founding in 1993. Heretofore, the tournament has included men’s and women’s elite teams, featuring some of the top collegiate players in the country, along with master’s and grand masters divisions.
However, with competition for top players from a major tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y. on the same weekend, along with the exploding youth lacrosse market, the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic is in need of a bit of an overhaul and has found perhaps the best representatives of the sport to do it.
Pastusak explained to the tourism commission on Monday the Legendary Sports Group, which produces many of the larger lacrosse tournaments in the country, is coming on board with the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic and bringing a couple of the sport’s heavyweights with it.
Pastusak said TAB met recently with Hall-of-Famer Dave Cottle, who coached the University of Maryland and Loyola University and was inducted to the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2017. Also on board is Dave Pietramala, who coached Johns Hopkins for 19 years and won two national championships at the Baltimore school. Pietramala played at Hopkins and was a three-time All-American defenseman and national champion.
Together, Cottle and Pietramala, who coached together at Loyola in the early-90s, want to help shepherd the aging Ocean City Lacrosse Classic into a new era, according to Pastusak.
“There is an event in Lake Placid around the same time as Ocean City’s tournament and it’s a week-long event,” he said. “Legendary Sports, with Cottle and Pietramala on board, want make Ocean City’s tournament also a week-long event. Currently, we have the older guys, but they want to add youth divisions and have the tournament go on all week.”
Pastusak said the Legendary Sports Group met with TAB and requested funding in the amount of $50,000 in the first year, followed by $40,000 in year two and $30,000 in the third year, rounding out the proposed three-year commitment. He said in exchange, TAB requested Legendary Sports commit to a winter indoor lacrosse event.
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones said Legendary Sports is the top of the line in sports tournament promotions.
“Legendary Sports is the cream of the crop,” she said. “This would add a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday youth tournament and it really makes it a week-long event. The existing event has dwindled somewhat recently because of Lake Placid, but this is an opportunity to build this into a premiere family event.”
Pastusak agreed the Ocean City tournament has taken a hit recently because of the popularity of Lake Placid, which is a week-long event.
“Our August event is going downhill, frankly,” he said. “This would boost that weekend, while adding Monday through Wednesday for the youth tournaments. We would see families watching their kids play all week and then the older guys take the fields on the weekend. These are the guys to pull this off.”
Council President and commission member Matt James supported the concept, but said he preferred to see the event held in June as opposed to August, which generally takes care of itself in terms of tourism.
“I don’t really care for the August dates,” he said. We really like to see this in June. I’m a little hung up on the dates. If this is a three-year commitment, I’d like to see it in June in 2022 and going forward.”
Jones said that was a possibility and Legendary Sports has shown a willingness to be flexible.
“They are willing to work around what we want,” she said. “In this first year, they have to work in that August timeframe. Let this come before the Mayor and Council. Let’s not get hung up on the dates today.”
Councilman and commission member John Gehrig, a strong advocate for rebranding Ocean City as a youth sports destination, made a motion to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council. However, Pastusak said TAB would take the request to the elected officials and Monday’s briefing for the tourism commission was largely informational.