Right on the heels of the World Cup soccer matches in France, another international sporting event is about to begin. But this one is a lot closer to home.
In a city and on a campus steeped in lacrosse tradition, Baltimore and Johns Hopkins will play host to the 1998 International Lacrosse Federation World Championship from July 15 to 25.
Since late fall, Hopkins officials have been meeting with World Lacrosse '98 organizers in preparation for the games, which are expected to draw upward of 50,000 people to the Homewood campus and will be televised in 10 nations, making it the biggest lacrosse event in the history of the game.
According to Tom Calder, director of athletics, it's only fitting that this important event--known as the Olympics of lacrosse--be held at the university's Homewood Field.
"Lacrosse is our marquee sport, and Homewood Field is often referred to as the Yankee Stadium of lacrosse," Calder said. "It's known throughout the lacrosse world as a place where many famous games have taken place."
Homewood will also act as an Olympic Village of sorts. The more than 300 athletes and coaches will be housed in McCoy Hall and eat food prepared by campus dining services, and the campus will be the site of all fan festivities related to the games.
Eleven international teams will be competing for the chance to call themselves world champions. The defending champion is the United States, a team that has won seven of the eight world titles since the event's inception in 1961. This will be the second time the quadrennial event will be held in the United States; the last time was in 1982, when it was also held at Hopkins.
The field of competitors is the largest in the event's history; only four teams played in 1982, six in 1994. The teams will be divided into two divisions: The blue is made up of the United States, Australia, Canada, England and the Iroquois Nation; the red comprises the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Scotland, Wales and Sweden.
Hopkins lacrosse fans will recognize some familiar faces. On the U.S. team are former Blue Jay players Peter Jacobs ('95), Milford Marshant ('96), John DeTommaso ('86) and Brian Voelker ('91). The current starting goal keeper, Brian Carcaterra ('00), will play for England, courtesy of his mother's lineage. And Dave Huntley ('79) and Haswell Franklin ('83) will be coaching the Canadian team.
In addition to the games, there will be a Fan Fest held on the baseball field adjacent to the lacrosse stadium. Admission to Fan Fest is free and will feature cultural foods and drinks, interactive games and vendors selling lacrosse-related paraphernalia.
The first game of each day begins at 9 a.m. with the last game ending at approximately 10 p.m. Fan Fest will end at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Steve Stenersen, executive director of U.S. Lacrosse, the World Lacrosse '98 organizer, said that Hopkins and Baltimore were chosen for the '98 games because of their rich lacrosse tradition.
"Hopkins is the cradle of modern lacrosse. No lacrosse-playing institution has the tradition that Hopkins has," said Stenersen, whose organization, headquartered on the Homewood campus, is the national governing body of the sport. As for having the event in Baltimore, "it's like fishing where the fish are," Stenersen said, referring to the strong local lacrosse following.
Tickets are being sold in full-event strips that allow the bearer access to all 36 games. The cost of the strips is $125 for reserved seating and $100 for general admission. However, Stenersen added, the organizers might ultimately announce single-game sales, but they have yet to determine if and when that will happen.
To ensure the safety of the athletes and visitors to Homewood, university security is working in tandem with Baltimore City police and a private security firm.
Ron Mullen, director of security, said the university has acted in an advisory position on event security matters in order to provide an "efficient security umbrella for the campus.
"All of these folks are our guests. We want to maximize their level of safety," Mullen said.
Meanwhile, the Athletics Department has been busy preparing Homewood Field for play, which includes making last-minute touches to the just-completed Schelle Pavilion.
"It brings an exciting atmosphere to the event to be able to seat at least 11,000 people," Calder said. "It's a great place to watch a lacrosse game."