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Major League Lax’s Cannons to call Harvard home for 2007 season

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Natasha L. Coleman

Harvard sports fans sticking around campus this summer, fear not: there’s a new option coming to town to satisfy your athletic itch.

Major League Lacrosse’s Boston Cannons have inked a deal to play their 2007 home games at Harvard Stadium, making the Cannons the first professional sports franchise in 37 years to regularly compete at the venue.

The 104-year-old stadium, which was recently lined with FieldTurf and given permanent lights, has not hosted a team from the pros since the NFL’s Boston Patriots played there in 1970.

If not for the recent upgrades, the drought probably would have continued, Director of Athletic Communications Charles V. Sullivan said.

“I think [the upgrades] played a huge role,” Sullivan said. “We wouldn’t have even entertained the idea on a grass field, because that would certainly come at the expense of a field that can be used for our students and our varsity teams.”

The Boston Cannons are one of 10 teams in the outdoor lacrosse league, which was established in 2001. The Cannons reached the championship game in 2004, the first year they started playing their games at Boston University’s Nickerson Field. From 2001 to 2003, they had called local Lowell High School’s Cawley Memorial Stadium their home.

After two years at BU, Cannons general manager Jason Chandler said that the chance to play at Harvard was too good to pass up.

“Boston University was an outstanding partner for us, but when it came time for our discussions with Harvard, the growth potential is something that we had to look very strongly at,” he said. “In the end, it was one of the main driving forces.”

Nickerson Field is equipped to hold just over 15,000 spectators, compared to Harvard Stadium’s seating-capacity of 30,898, according to The Boston Globe. Throw in a strong relationship with both of the Crimson’s lacrosse programs and a bit of mystique—the stadium is a National Historic Landmark—and Chandler was sold.

“Harvard is really committed to their lacrosse programs,” he said. “We reached out to Scott Anderson and [women’s coach] Sarah Nelson and we want to see what we can do to cross-promote each other and support the community.”

Crimson men’s lacrosse coach Scott Anderson said that he was excited about the Cannons’ move and not surprised that they chose Harvard.

“It’s a great stadium, and a great venue for lacrosse,” Anderson said. The Cannons’ arrival “spurs interest in both college and professional lacrosse.”

Chandler wouldn’t disclose the specifics of the deal, but the Cannons are essentially renting the stadium from Harvard for the summer, according to Sullivan. For each one of the team’s six home games, the organization is offering a 20 percent discount for all Harvard students and faculty, Chandler said.

“There’s obviously a revenue piece involved,” Sullivan said, referring to Harvard’s decision to allow the stadium to be used. “We have something that’s a valuable resource.”

Boston will play its home-opener on May 19 against the Philadelphia Barrage, but with the Crimson men’s team slated to play its home-finale at Harvard Stadium just three weeks earlier, there is the potential for some overlap.

Sullivan, however, said he isn’t worried.

“They’re looking at some kind of early afternoon practice schedule, when the students would be in class,” he said. “It won’t have an effect on day-to-day availability for Harvard students and varsity teams.”

—Staff writer Malcom A. Glenn can be reached at mglenn@fas.harvard.edu.