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Local pro lacrosse venture appears to hit rock bottom


February 16. 2013 4:11PM


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A year ago, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Shamrocks, a professional indoor lacrosse team, joined the North American Lacrosse League and were scheduled to play their first game last January.


A year later, the Shamrocks left the NALL, lost the Mohegan Sun Arena as a venue to play their games and moved the start of their season to the fall.


Jim Jennings was commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, a professional indoor lacrosse league, from 2000-09 before becoming part-owner of the Shamrocks.


"I thought it would be a good market to introduce lacrosse to the community," Jennings said. "I am a 20 percent owner. I had partners that were majority owners and they decided they wanted to own a team along with me. My company Waterbucket Media was responsible for the marketing of the team."


Jennings secured the Mohegan Sun Arena as the team's home-game venue.


"It's a great sport and it's something that would fit well in our arena," Rebecca Bonnevier, SMG general manager of Mohegan Arena, said. "This market does well with sports teams so I thought that it would be a great fit."


The NALL hit a speed bump in September 2011 when the league's Board of Governors fired Commissioner Phil Evans and replaced him with the league's legal counsel, Anthony Caruso.


In October 2011, the Shamrocks also found a new leader when the team appointed Barry Powless, who played in the NLL and the Major Indoor Lacrosse League, as head coach and the stage was set for the 2012 winter lacrosse season.


A few months later the walls of the NALL started to crumble.


"In December of 2011, four out of the six teams were not happy with the way the league was progressing so we fired Caruso," Jennings said. "He filed a lawsuit to keep his job and we settled the lawsuit 90 days later and the four teams were to receive payments from the two teams left in the NALL."


Eventually the Shamrocks and a few other teams left the NALL and moved their season to the fall. The Shamrocks' new season lost them their home-game venue.


"We wanted to play in the fall at the Mohegan Sun Arena, but they were unwilling to cooperate and give us the dates we needed," Jennings said.


However, Bonnevier said Jennings never discussed the move to a fall season with her.


"He defaulted on his contract," Bonnevier said. "I read in the newspaper that they were not playing in the winter and that they were playing in the fall. He never even checked to see if I had dates available in the fall."


Jennings also didn't meet other areas of the contract, according to Bonnevier. If the Shamrocks did start their season in the winter, they might not have had the proper flooring on which to compete.


"When I read in the paper they were changing the dates, we were probably two weeks out from our first game and we still didn't have a field in place, which was one of several issues," Bonnevier said.



Because of the change of venue, season-ticket holders wanted their money back. In May 2012, WNEP reported that 12 season-ticket holders still hadn't received their refunds. Jennings said most if not all season tickets have been refunded, which has been his main effort since he was diagnosed with cancer.


"I am no longer part of the ownership group because I have stage four cancer and I need to concentrate on my health," Jennings said. "Because of my cancer I have shut down my company Waterbucket Media."


The Shamrocks joined a new league that would play in the fall of 2012 known as the Professional Lacrosse League.


"We formed the PLL because we wanted to play in the fall and not compete with the other two professional leagues that were currently playing, the Major League Lacrosse and the National Lacrosse League," Jennings said.


The Shamrocks will play somewhere in Lehigh Valley, but fans will have to wait a little longer to see the team in action.


"At this point we have a venue identified and a new ownership structure for the organization," commissioner of the PLL Brett Vickers said. "With that I will say that the Shamrocks will not be playing for the upcoming season, but will play in the 2013 season."


Vickers also said when the current owners of the PLL moved from the NALL, the Shamrocks' entire organization didn't follow.


"Part of their ownership decided to stay in the old league and part of the group decided to move to the PLL," Vickers said. "So from a business perspective the SWB Shamrocks from a year ago doesn't exist."


Among all the other alterations, the Shamrocks may also change their name, according to Vickers.


"Ultimately, the partnership will make the decision on how they brand and market their product, which will be subject to league approval," Vickers said.


The Shamrocks will not play in 2012, but the PLL will still have its inaugural season this year with the remaining teams.


"The PLL will have four teams playing this season, each in their own city in arena venues," Vickers said. "We currently have two announced, Jacksonville (Bullies) and Charlotte (Copperheads), and I have just visited the other two cities this past week, met with arena management and team ownership and put the finishing touches on those leases."


The PLL season will begin Sept. 15 in Jacksonville.



As for the Shamrocks, the team's future is still in question. One thing's for sure. The Shamrocks will not play in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area as it was announced in July 2011.


"I would love to be able to offer as much entertainment as possible in this arena whether it's concerts, sporting events or family shows," Bonnevier said. "We love to bring opportunities for people here. I'm disappointed that they're not here."




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