On Tuesday, the National Lacrosse League officially announced that the New England Black Wolves will move to Albany, New York. The news follows Monday’s Albany Times Union report that confirmed rumors that the Black Wolves franchise was on the move.
The NLL confirms the the sale of the New England Black Wolves to a group headed by Oliver Marti. Oliver Marti is a former standout Division 1 men’s lacrosse All-American, Canadian field lacrosse national player, and NLL standout before focusing on a career as a hedge fund manager and developing the box lacrosse game at the youth level. Marti is also an investor in the Premier Lacrosse League and Epoch Lacrosse.
Capital Region NLL is an all-star group with an incredible passion for the game of lacrosse, many having played at the highest level and continue to be actively involved at the youth through professional levels as well. The group includes Brett Jefferson, major investor in and a board member of the Premier Lacrosse League, and member of the Board of Directors of the Tewaaraton Foundation, Sol Kumin, co-owner of Triple Crown Winner Justify and last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Authentic who serves as Chairman of the US Lacrosse Foundation Board, along with Russ Sheppard on which the true lacrosse movie, The Grizzlies, was based.
Albany NLL will benefit from the tenure, experience, and success of Mike French, Brad Brewster
, and Ted Goldthorpe all members of the Philadelphia Wings LP which won six Championships and have been instrumental members of the Board of Governors and numerous NLL committees. Mike French is a former NLL standout and Hall of Fame member who is also a member of the Canadian and U.S. Lacrosse Halls of Fame.
The new owners will relocate the franchise immediately to the fast-growing lacrosse and economic hotbed of Albany, New York, where the team will play in the downtown, recently renovated Times Union Center. It marks the return of box lacrosse to the Capital Region for the first time since 2002.
“This is a bittersweet day for the league and our sport,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz. “We want to first thank our colleagues at Mohegan Sun for all the positive work they have done building the franchise in New England. We are also very excited to welcome to the league an amazing ownership group with significant success and experience in both the financial investment industry and lacrosse led by Oliver Marti.”
“This transaction is also particularly special in that it not only brings back our league to a growing and engaged market, but also long-time NLL investor and Hall of Fame player Mike French and his group will continue to build the great team that, last season was one of the best and making a run for the NLL Championship,” Sakiewicz continued. “The fact is the demand for our teams in our current successful business model outweighs the availability of franchises, and this is an example of a savvy group seizing an opportunity to get into the NLL in a market that is now properly mature to be successful both on and off the floor.”
“While we are saddened for the fans at Mohegan Sun, we want to remind them Albany is only about a two-hour drive and the NLL will always support them and that area to provide access and grow the game,” he added, “We are very excited about what the future holds for our new team in Albany.”
“My partners and I couldn’t be more excited to join the National Lacrosse League (NLL). Our group, which is comprised of lacrosse enthusiasts, professionals, and influential people in the industry, are determined to help grow the sport of lacrosse,” said Oliver Marti, the head of the Albany NLL ownership group. “The NLL is blossoming, and we want to be a part of its growth, while also being instrumental in the direction the sport of lacrosse is heading.
“We would like to recognize and thank the fans of the Black Wolves and the staff of MG&E for their support and efforts over the last few years,” Marti added. “As we enter the Albany market, we are ecstatic about the opportunities that will further fuel our mission to grow the sport. The Capital Region has a growing youth lacrosse platform and obvious success in the collegiate ranks. Along with this, playing out of a top-notch venue like the Times Union Center and entrenching ourselves in the local community, we are poised for long term success.”
“We are proud to have worked side-by-side with the Black Wolves players, coaches and staff,” said Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment CEO Mario Kontomerkos. “Their performance on the field has translated into positive growth in ticket sales and brand awareness across New England, but it is their leadership and commitment as ambassadors in our community that will be missed most. This sale allows Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment to focus and strengthen its position as a global brand in gaming and entertainment.”
“On behalf of ASM Global, which manages the Times Union Center and our entire staff, we are extremely honored to have a National Lacrosse League team play at the Times Union Center starting in the fall of 2021. The Capital Region is a hot bed for lacrosse in high schools, colleges and youth programs; the popularity of the sport is at an all-time high. Our management team at the TU Center will provide assistance in every way possible to help make the team a big success,” added Bob Belber, Regional General Manager, ASM Global.
The team will be known for the short term as Albany NLL and is undertaking a naming and branding contest to involve fans from across the Capital Region. The team’s name will be revealed in April 2021. The franchise will make its in-market debut when the 2021-22 season begins in the fall of 2021. This will be the second iteration of professional box lacrosse in Albany and the first since the Albany Attack played in the state capital from 2000 to 2003.
Albany NLL will be deeply involved in the League’s expanded plan to continue to embrace and empower the Indigenous community, which is so tightly tied to the Capital Region. The area was recently cited by The New York Times as one of the most progressive and fast-growing areas for young families in the country, as well as home to a network of Universities, two demographics which fit well with the NLL fan base. The move to Albany is also expected to help keep some of the fan-related ties that have been built at Mohegan Sun, given the relative proximity to the two locales.
The Black Wolves franchise is one of the most storied in lacrosse history, which includes 28 years and six championships in Philadelphia when the team was known as the Wings. On July 11, 2014 the Wings announced they would be relocating to Uncasville, Conn., where they played as the Black Wolves at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Black Wolves were 8-3 and in first place when the 2019-20 season was cut short due to COVID-19 last March. In their six seasons at Mohegan Sun, the Black Wolves made the playoffs each of the last four completed seasons. The 6 titles during their long stay in Philadelphia is tied for the most in league history with the Toronto Rock.
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