One-on-One with Steve Donner: Why PBLA Picked Binghamton and What Comes Next
Fox 40 had the opportunity to talk to Professional Box Lacrosse Association Commissioner Steve Donner about why the league picked Binghamton and the work that has to be done from now until play starts in December.
"I can't wait for the fans in Binghamton to see what this game is all about," Donner said.
And Binghamton is already ecstatic about the league. As of Tuesday afternoon, Binghamton leads all markets in the 'name the team' contest. The Parlor City has 403 names submitted, nearly a quarter of all submissions. Fans still have until August 2nd to submit team names. Then after that, they will vote for one of four names picked by the league.
"After eight days of balloting, Binghamton is number one [in name submissions]," Donner said. "It's taken us all by surprise and it's just really showing some immediate interest in the market which is really exciting."
One of the next steps after that is the combine. Donner says it will most likely be held at One Arena in Elmira and feature players who submitted their names on the PBLA website. Then in September, the league will have its first draft and the rest of the team will be comprised of local tryouts.
"We expect probably 200-220 players at the combine," Donner said. "Following that in mid-September, we'll have our first annual draft. Teams will be drafting their players and the team allocation of players will be both from the draft and from some local tryouts after the initial draft is completed. So what we hope to do is really have a nice balance of national players throughout the league and also some local regional players to fill in the roster as well."
Donner said one of the important aspects of this league is giving collegiate players in the states the opportunity to play at the next level.
"The current National Lacrosse League, the current major league, their player pool is 97 percent Canadian, so we've got thousands of D1, D2, even D3 players, very capable of playing world-class levels, just not getting the opportunity on the rosters of the NLL. So this league is made for those players and if the NLL is going to be Major League One competition, our league I think will be One-A, it'll be that close," Donner said.
When looking at potential cities for the PBLA, the entire Upstate NY region stood out for its fan loyalty and its love for the sport. Donner also attributed the cities' capability of traveling to and from one another for away games as an attractive prospect.
"The league along with Syracuse and Elmira in the region here is going to be setting up tremendous rivalries," Donner said.
Donner confirmed that the Binghamton Box team will play at the Visions Federal Credit Union Veterans Memorial Arena.
"We'll be friendly neighbors with the Black Bears," Donner said. "[Lacrosse fans] tend to cross-pollinate with hockey fans really well. I'm hoping that it's going to be a boom for the arena, downtown, and hockey and lacrosse will cross-pollinate and promote each other."
The league also struggled with finding dates during the pandemic. Donner says he and the league are open to Sundays, but thinks most games will be played on Fridays and Saturdays. He added that the league will have seven home games and seven away games this season with the possibility of a bye week. He says the league wants to add one home game and one away game in the future.
"Availability this year of arenas coming out of COVID, it was a lot of competition for dates and so we really wanted to go in each arena with the best weekend dates we could come up with," Donner said. "Open to what works best for the schedule, but I think you'll see mainly Fridays and Saturdays. There could be an odd Sunday afternoon after football season's over. And so in some arenas, we're going to be experimenting on what days are the better date. You immediately think Saturday night but we've seen the NLL be successful Friday, Saturday, or Sunday."
And for those who aren't familiar with box lacrosse, here's how Donner describes it:
"It's all about the attack," Donner said. "There's no offsides, there's a 30-second shot clock, once you move the ball across the floor, you can't go backward. In the indoor game, you're contained in a smaller surface so wow, it's just like watching lacrosse and pinball at the same time."
One of the emphases of the league will be its fan interaction which Donner says will be an all-day affair.
"The kids will be on the floor from eight o'clock in the morning playing scrimmages and clinics. There'll be pregame parties, whether it's away from the arena or at the arena itself," Donner said. "There's a big tradition in the game for a postgame party somewhere where both teams after they've gone to war for two-and-a-half hours, come to the same postgame party and mingle with fans for both teams and it's a unique experience. Fans love it, players love it."
Binghamton is one of the smaller initial markets introduced, but Donner doesn't see that as a disadvantage.
"Binghamton has a chance to play against bigger markets in this league and I'm excited for the market as I'm excited for Elmira," Donner said. "And I think Elmira and the Binghamton's of the world can be almost like the Green Bay Packers of this league. So I think the biggest thing is having the fans try it for the first time, they'll come back."
The league plans to have its first games be played in December. Donner says the league will have a formal announcement in Binghamton on its team name and coaching staff in the coming weeks.