Major League Lacrosse's Chesapeake Bayhawks are looking to roost in Prince George's County, but a new study says the team may have to scale back its ambitious stadium plans.
The Bayhawks, along with local officials, proposed a 22,000-seat stadium in Bowie that would be paired with a 10-field facility primarily for youth and amateur sports leagues. The entire complex would be built on 65 acres of state-owned land just south of Prince George's Stadium, where Minor League Baseball's Bowie Baysox play.
A study commissioned by the Maryland Stadium Authority and the state park and planning commission, however, recommends downsizing to a 12,000- to 14,000-seat stadium instead.
"Market research suggests relatively limited demand for the proposed new 22,000-seat MLL stadium," the reports says, adding that no Major League Lacrosse team currently has a dedicated stadium. "Although the Bayhawks are envisioned to serve as the primary tenant, the ability to consistently attract other sports and entertainment activity to this size venue appears challenging."
While the Bayhawks have been successful -- the team has won four championships since the league began in 2001, including one in 2012 -- they've bounced between six stadiums in the Baltimore and D.C. areas.
Since moving to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis in 2009, attendance at Bayhawks games has improved. Average attendance jumped from 4,412 a game in 2010 to 8,161 in 2011, before rising to 9,524 last year.
But even the most optimistic projections don't have that number nearing 20,000 in the near future. The study foresees average attendance of 11,000 in the new stadium, along with about 130,000 yearly participants at the complex's other fields.
The project's cost will be determined in a further study set to begin in about six weeks. Final recommendations will likely be released in the fall.
"If it's a complex that the Bayhawks are interested in leasing, they would end up perhaps paying a share of that," said Alvin McNeal, acting deputy director at the park and planning commission. "Depending on how we determine the cost allocation, the state may also pay a share of that."
Maryland is a lacrosse hotbed nationally -- US Lacrosse, the sport's governing body, said the state had more players than any other in 2011. Five Maryland schools and one D.C. school finished in the men's top 25 of Lacrosse Magazine's 2012 end-of-season high school rankings, while 29 of 42 NCAA men's lacrosse championships have featured at least one team from Maryland.