For those looking for something faster than baseball and more physical than soccer this summer, the New York Lizards of Major League Lacrosse may be the team to check out.
Based in Garden City and playing their games at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, the Lizards are local enough for a day trip from the city.
“It’s a faster paced game than baseball,” said Rick Rissetto, the Lizards director of public relations and marketing. “Our games in MLL will go anywhere from 2 to 2 1⁄2 hours, and they’re fast-paced with a running clock and a lot of things going on. So, it appeals to that mindset of ‘there’s a lot happening’ and your attention is focused on a lot of different things.”
With lacrosse on the rise, the three-time champion Lizards have become a staple of the Long Island sports community and are MLL’s lone team in the metropolitan area.
“I think there’s no question that the sport has grown and taken off in the last 15, 20 years,” Rissetto said. “We’ve kind of been in the growth period of that. We’ve sort of seen the community rally around us and kind of blossom with us when it comes to lacrosse.”
Originally called the Long Island Lizards, the franchise was rebranded in 2012 to reflect their representation of being New York’s team. The moniker comes from the 1960s’ heavy importing of the Italian wall lizard, according to Rissetto.
The Lizards draw a solid 5,000 to 6,000 fans per game at Schuart Stadium, and fans are treated to pregame meet-and-greets and postgame autograph sessions with the players. Tickets start at $22 and run as high as $90.
“With Hofstra, it’s a unique environment because it’s that college stadium, college campus feel, but you still get a good amount of people,” Rissetto said.
But there’s more to the team than just the players’ accessibility. There’s a type of personal connection between the players and the fans.
“A lot of people who come are old high school teammates, kids who are watching their coaches or those who followed the players throughout their college careers,” Rissetto said.
Similar to Major League Soccer’s early days, MLL players are also full-time working professionals, making an average salary between $10,000 and $25,000 per season.
The Lizards’ Paul Rabil, one of MLL’s biggest stars, is the lone exception. He’s also an entrepreneur who founded the “Paul Rabil Experience,” an online subscription service in which he is a digital coach to aspiring lacrosse players. Rabil is known as the sport’s first “Million Dollar Man,” although he won’t reveal his salary.
The Lizards are in the postseason hunt, but they are short on time. At 6-7 entering Saturday’s regular-season finale against the visiting Charlotte Hounds, they’re aiming for their fourth-straight playoff berth. That run included a third Steinfeld Cup championship in 2015.