Mohegan Sun, owner of WNBA team, buys Philly pro lacrosse team that will move to Connecticut

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HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut’s Mohegan tribe, reaching back into its history and a game of stickball North American Indians began centuries ago, announced Wednesday it will be part owner of a professional lacrosse team.

Mohegan Sun and Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which also operates a casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, said they bought half the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League. The team will move to Uncasville, Connecticut, and play its first game in December at Mohegan Sun Arena. The new franchise name will be announced at a later date.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

“The Mohegan Tribe is thrilled to be associated with a game with centuries-old roots with the Eastern Woodland Indians,” said tribal chairman Kevin Brown.

The Mohegans are the second Indian affiliation to own a team in the National Lacrosse League; Curt Styres, a Mohawk of Canada’s Six Nations, is owner of the Rochester Knighthawks in upstate New York. The league said it’s committed to honouring the culture and history of lacrosse, which was started by Indians more than 700 years ago.

The Philadelphia Wings, which is owned and operated by Philadelphia Wings LP, announced on July 11 the team would move for the 2015 season.

“The financial model in a market with so many sport and entertainment alternatives has proven to be unsustainable,” Michael French, Wings owner and team president, said at the time. “Finding a new venue with new strategic partners was the only way to ensure financial stability.”

He said Wednesday that the New England market for men’s and women’s lacrosse has been expanding at a “phenomenal pace.”

It’s the second professional sports team acquired by the Mohegans, who have owned the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA since 2003.

National Lacrosse League Commissioner George Daniel said the purchase by the Mohegans is a “great model” because of the tribe’s ownership of the Mohegan Sun, its control of the arena and ancillary revenue such as parking, food and beverages.

Lacrosse draws an average of 9,500 fans for each game and outstrips WNBA and European basketball leagues, he said.

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