As part of its ongoing push for portfolio diversification, the Mohegan Tribal Nation announced the purchase of the Philadelphia Wings Lacrosse Team on Thursday, August 6. Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Sun’s chief executive officer, Mohegan Gaming Authority, said the authority has purchased one-half of the team, which is being moved to Connecticut to play at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
“It is a very exciting day for us,” Etess said. The team has not yet been renamed.
Mohegan Chairman Kevin Red Eagle Brown said he was a huge sports fan, and added, “We are bringing home to roost a sport that began right here in this region. Going centuries back, it was a sport that was used to train and prepare young warriors either to go to war, or to return from war. It was a way for the community to reach out and embrace them, and it helped the warriors strike a balance with a sharpness of mind to prepare them for what lay ahead.”
Brown said the game created a bond between the team and the community and expects that will happen once again. “Here at Mohegan Sun, excitement is what we do, and if we can put this traditional sport in this venue and have our community take part, I am excited about it,” he said.
This is the second sports team purchase for the Mohegan Sun; the Connecticut Sun is a Women’s Basketball League, and for the last twelve years, CEO Etess has overseen team operations on behalf of the tribe.
Brad Brewster, one of the team's owners, reported that four of the top 25 lacrosse teams across the country come from Connecticut, more than any other state except New York.
National Lacrosse League games average 9,500 fans per game, said NLL commissioner, George Daniel. The sport is considered the fastest growing sport in the country, and lacrosse is the third highest professional indoor sports in attendance, behind the National Basketball League and the National Football League, he added.
There are currently nine franchises, and this franchise will play in the eastern division against Minnesota, Buffalo, Rochester, Toronto, and in the western division, with Edmonton, Calvary, Vancouver and Colorado. The home games will run at Mohegan Sun from December to May.
The investment in the team, reported by the Hartford Courant, is $1.5 million, with players earning approximately $20,000 annually.
Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Nation, said that the tribe’s involvement will be identical to any Mohegan Sun business venture. “We are the management board of all things Mohegan.”
George Daniel, commissioner of the National Lacross League; Kevin Brown, Mohegan tribal chairman; Mike French, president and owner of the Philadelphia Wings; Blaine Harrison, head coach; Tracey Kalusky, athlete; Brad Brewster, owner; Mitchell Etess, Chief Executive Officer, Mohegan Gaming Authority.
The Philadelphia Wings team started 27 years ago. President Michael French said the team was sad about relocating and leaving friends behind, but added, “We are thrilled and excited to actually be in a partnership with the Mohegan Sun and tribe. We think this is an extremely healthy market, we have a great nucleus and a great team that wanted to stay together, that wanted to play together. We didn’t know about relocating, but now that we have seen the venue and made friends with our new partners, it is going to be a great new opportunity for us to get more of the Championship rings that we earned back in Philadelphia.”
French once played for the team, and grew up in Canada, where some of his best friends and lacrosse teammates were Native. He added, “This the Creator’s game, a Native American game, and it is going to bring us closer to that. We can’t wait to get started.”
According to Chairman Brown, lacrosse is a very popular sport on the reservation and surrounding areas. “You can’t drive around here on the weekends without seeing a kid with a Lacrosse stick.” Brown said, “I think this can drive another opportunity for families throughout the area to spend some time with their kids at this great facility,” he said.
“Montville High just started a lacrosse team, so for the young people, they are on the cusp of something really blowing up,” Mohegan tribal member Bill Donehey said. “Now they have something real close by, especially right here in Connecticut. It's going to do nothing but improve the high school team. They are going to go to the meet and greets and meet professionals, and I just think it’s exciting.”