Diversity in the sport of lacrosse has lagged behind the growing interest in the game, but the city of Atlanta will challenge that.
On April 18, Major League Lacrosse agreed to sell ownership of the Blaze franchise to former Obama appointee Andre Gudger. Gudger served under President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2017 and founded the technology investment company Eccalon.
“We are thrilled to have an entrepreneur as accomplished as Andre as a new owner in MLL,” explained MLL Commissioner Alexander Brown. “He combines an extremely successful technology background with a passion for our sport and a genuine commitment to the Atlanta community that will only help to advance our league and the game of lacrosse.”
The Atlanta Blaze Lacrosse plays at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University and has started their third season.
The Atlanta Blaze went 4-10 in its inaugural season and finished 6-8 last season. The Atlanta Blaze lacrosse franchise incorporated data analytics in their 2018 MLL draft selection and it was their new owner Gudger that encouraged this decision.
The importance of having a team owner that looks like the demographic in the city of Atlanta is tremendous. He is a successful tech entrepreneur that has over 20 years of experience in the defense, intelligence, and investment banking industries.
Gudger’s presence in the MLL is needed since the sports industry is more tech-driven than ever before. His fresh ideas and seasoned tech experience will help advance the sport while growing a loyal fan base here Atlanta.
Gudger said his eldest daughter Jenesis inspired his purchase of the Atlanta Blaze lacrosse team.
“My motivation is simply based on the love that my daughter showed for the game. I wanted to get more involved so that I can help bring this sport to the world,” Gudger said.
Her love for the game and his willingness to disrupt this sports league is what’s needed to help change the makeup of lacrosse in the state of Georgia, he explained.
As Gudger led a tour around Fifth Third Bank Stadium, he encountered a group of lacrosse players from Peachtree City. The team’s faces lit up once they knew he was the owner of this sports team and he spoke with them for ten minutes about where & why they play lacrosse. In that group of about 12-14 kids, only one was black.
“It’s important for me to speak to the fans and students who play the game because they may not know who I am yet,” Gudger said. “This helps me establish visibility while allowing them to see how active I will be in their fan experience.”
One of the main goals that the Atlanta Blaze wants to do this season is to share the fan experience while growing the fan base.
The team’s President Jim Pfeifer said, “This (franchise purchase) represents a defining moment in the history of the Atlanta Blaze. Passionate ownership is integral for a franchise to be successful and Andre is committed to making the Blaze an elite MLL Team.”
He also shared, “We have discussed working closely with the entire Atlanta community to provide opportunities to grow the game across a wider demographic sphere.”
The Atlanta Blaze’s next home game is June 2 against the New York Lizards at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at 7 p.m. You can purchase your ticket at the stadium or online at www.atlantablaze.com.