OCEAN CITY — Ocean City could get a three-for-one lacrosse tournament deal with a single investment after resort officials this week approved an agreement with some of the sports’ heavyweights.
At a Tourism Commission meeting last month, Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) President Steve Pastusak briefed members on a proposed expansion of the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic, held every August since 1993. The tournament includes men’s and women’s elite divisions featuring some of the top collegiate players in the country, along with masters and grand masters and other divisions. However, due to competing tourneys, the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic has seen its popularity wane in recent years and is in need of an overhaul.
Pastusak pitched the concept of an expanded Ocean City Lacrosse Classic to the Mayor and Council during Tuesday’s work session. He explained the Legendary Sports Group, which produces many of the larger lacrosse tournaments in the region and around the country, is coming on board with the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic and is bringing a couple of the sports’ heavyweights with it.
Pastusak said TAB met recently with Dave Cottle, who coached at 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 and national champion.
“The Legendary Sports Group is involved in some of the biggest tournaments in the country,” he said. “The idea is to make it a week-long festival. We already have the adult tournament on that weekend, and the concept is to bring in the kids’ tournament during the week. The kids would play during the week and their parents would play on the weekend. It would essentially be two separate tournaments. The adult tournament already exists and the kids’ tournament is new.”
Pastusak said the Legendary Sports Group was seeking a three-year commitment from the town at $50,000 per year for the expanded Ocean City Lacrosse Classic tournament. However, TAB was recommending a $50,000 investment in the first year, followed by a $40,000 investment the second year and $30,000 in the third year.
In addition to the annual summer week-long lacrosse festival, the promoters have agreed to host a major indoor lacrosse tournament in each of the three years of the commitment. In a recent development since Pastusak pitched the idea to the tourism commission last month, U.S. Lacrosse, the sports’ governing body, has expressed interest in coming on board with a youth tournament in June, essentially creating three significant lacrosse tournaments in Ocean City where there is currently one.
In essence, the expanded Ocean City Lacrosse Classic would be held next August as planned, with an indoor tournament in December 2021 for the first of three years. Legendary Sports Group and U.S. Lacrosse have been amenable to moving the August tournament to June in the out years, a concept the Mayor and Council supports. Mayor Rick Meehan embraced the concept of a partnership with Legendary Sports Group, but urged the tournament be moved to June in future years.
“When you look at occupancy rates in August at around 85%, we’re looking to groom these events for June,” he said. “I think it would be much more advantageous for us in June.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Executive Director Susan Jones, who has worked with TAB on the proposed tournaments, said she also pushed for moving the event to June.
“That’s why we said we were not thrilled with August,” she said. “They said they were locked in for August in 2021, but would work with us to move the tournament to June in the future.”
Jones said the Legendary Sports Group, including Pietramala and Cottle, brought a lot of clout to the Ocean City lacrosse tournaments.
“These guys are the real deal,” she said. “If we’re serious about becoming a sports destination, these are the types of promoters we want to partner with.”
Councilman John Gehrig, who has been a staunch advocate of promoting Ocean City as a youth sports destination, said getting the indoor tournament each year was a bonus in the arrangement.
“Indoor lacrosse is extremely popular,” he said. “We have an opportunity to dominate that market. Are we who we say we want to be?”
Pastusak said the intent is to put the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic back on the map and restore its former stature among the major tournaments around the country.
“The hope is to draw people back that went to Lake Placid,” he said. “Lake Placid has a lax festival-feel with the kids playing during the week and the dads playing on the weekend.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the expanded tournament format with the aforementioned financial commitment from the town. The details on future dates will be outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the promoters.