The Charlotte Hounds are taking a two-year leave from competition as Major League Lacrosse reorganizes.
MLL announced Sunday that, in an effort to expand, it has reacquired the league’s media rights and will increase teams’ salary caps for players by 51 percent. Additionally, the league adopted a policy limiting owners to one team.
As a result, the Hounds and two other teams will not be participating in the 2019 season. The Charlotte franchise also will sit out 2020 while renovations are completed at American Legion Memorial Stadium, owner Jim McPhilliamy told the Observer.
McPhilliamy, who also owns the Charlotte Independence soccer team, said increased lacrosse player salaries, combined with rising costs of functioning without a permanent venue, would make operating for the next two seasons too much of a financial burden.
“I don’t really have a home field to play on, so I was facing a situation where we’d have increased costs and decreased revenue,” McPhilliamy said. “It just makes more sense to sit on the sideline for two years versus losing that type of money.”
Renovations to the stadium are to be completed in February 2021, McPhilliamy said. In the interim, the Hounds were planning to split their games between the Sportsplex at Matthews, Marion Diehl Park at Queens University and a third undetermined location.
“It’s not just the cost of the facility,” McPhilliamy said. “Operationally, just trying to play games at a bunch of different places and moving our infrastructure around and (storing) a bunch of stuff in trucks, that’s expensive as well. Then you have to spend more on marketing because you have to tell people where you’re playing for a particular game, so it adds up to a lot of extra costs.
“From our perspective, it’s just a lot better for right now to focus on the soccer and relaunch the Hounds in 2021 when we have a place to play.”
When the Hounds return they’ll be starting from scratch.
For the time being, MLL will reassume ownership of the Hounds franchise, league Commissioner Sandy Brown told the Observer.
The team’s coaches, McPhilliamy said, are essentially free agents and able to sign with any other team. The Hounds’ players will go into a re-distribution draft scheduled for later in April.
As far as logistics for what happens to the Hounds in 2021, there is still much to be determined. McPhilliamy said he would like to remain as owner with a new ownership group. According to Brown, McPhilliamy and the league have been in contact about the transition back to becoming an active franchise.
Brown reiterated that MLL sees the Hounds and Charlotte as valuable parts of the league’s future, and that he was excited about the stadium renovations.
For McPhilliamy, now it’s a matter of wait and see as far as what comes next.
“Every home Hounds game is part of my summer, and I’m used to it, and I love it,” McPhilliamy said. “It’s not really a hard decision from a financial perspective, but it’s hard from your heart.”