Philadelphia, PA — If you have ever thought about going to the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships, you should. Five games over the span of three days, that incorporate all three divisions. While most people head to the beach or the pool for Memorial Day weekend, lacrosse junkies from all over the country flock to the site of the 3-day event. This year Drexel hosted the event at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. Fans started descending onto Broad St. at 9:00 in the morning on Saturday to set up their tailgates and take part in Fan Fest. After getting checked in and set up in the media room, my broadcast partner, Rocco Granato and I headed out to check out the festivities.
We saw the normal tailgating you would expect at any day long lacrosse event, however, it was Penn State that surprised us. Just off of the Fan Fest area was a large, penned off tailgate area. A DJ, BBQ, couches, large jenga and connect four and other party games are all laid out around the tailgate area. The outskirts of this special tailgate is surrounded by more Penn State tailgaters that have set up smaller parties around it to make the entire parking lot feel like one big Nittany Lion event.
Before entering the official Fan Fest area, we caught up with Lyle and Miles Thompson at the back of a vendor booth taking picture and signing autographs for everyone that walked by. Once we walked into the Fan Fest area, you could start to feel the excitement of the lacrosse world assembling in one place. The customary radar gun was set up in the front of the Fan Fest, which attracts the largest crowd as everyone wants to test their skills against their friends. Buffalo Wild Wings was set up with the National Championship Trophy and photo booth that allowed fans to get up close and personal with the hardwood. US Lacrosse was set up just behind them with the FIL World Championship plaque and Blaise Riordan signing autographs and taking pictures. Meanwhile, the National Lacrosse League had Philly native Matt Rambo at their booth. Over on the main stage, Paul Rabil and Trevor Baptiste were getting the crowd hyped for the Premier Lacrosse League and giving away freebies. The NCAA also brought the teams to the fans with a booth that included the teams of the event. When we walked by, the entire Amherst team was there to sign autographs. Amherst will be playing in their first NCAA Championship game on Sunday for Division III.
Located in another parking lot, across the street from the official Fan Fest site, was another area with vendors. Major League Lacrosse was set up with their trailer and autograph booth. The MLL also went to the local lacrosse talent with Niko Amato, goalie for the Chesapeake Bayhawks and Philly native in attendance. Maverick, Cascade, and East Coast Dyes all had tents in this area and, of course, a radar gun was set up. As we were walking around the parking area we also came across Chris Schiller of Crown Lacrosse and Penn State Alum, and Johnathan Christmas of Uganda Lacrosse and Virginia Alum. At an event like this, you have to keep your head on a swivel, for lacrosse balls, and for lacrosse celebrities. This weekend is no doubt about crowning 3 NCAA Champions, but it is also about growing the sport and fan interaction. If you do not take advantage of the full day of activities, you are missing out on a great experience.