SPARKS, Md. — Alicia Groveston clutched her US Lacrosse-adorned hard hat Thursday morning at a construction site like a young lacrosse player might clutch his or her first stick — tightly, close to her heart.

“I’m keeping this one,” she said with a smile.

Fitting, perhaps, since the purpose of her presence, and the presence of some 175 dignitaries, donors, fans and US Lacrosse staff, on an otherwise non-descript, windswept, 12-acre swath of earth was to secure the future of a sport so many hold figuratively as close.

Groveston, president of the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association, assisted US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen, as did seven others, in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new US Lacrosse headquarters, Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame and Team USA training center in this Baltimore County community, roughly 20 miles north of the national governing body’s cramped, aging premises adjacent to Homewood Field on the Johns Hopkins University campus. The IWLCA made the leadership gift to the National Campaign for Lacrosse, which will enhance US Lacrosse’s efforts to expand participation in lacrosse among kids and to research means to improve player safety, in addition to providing a new administrative center, museum, hall of fame, and training facility for its national teams.

 

The ceremony celebrated the present, that the campaign had received pledges for $13.2 of its $15 million goal, but most of the messages focused on a US Lacrosse-led future of the sport that, prior to its 1998 inception, grew only in pockets, from which some fractures remain.

“I have seen first-hand the struggles that a non-traditional area can run into in developing a sport that relies heavily on good coaching, officiating and training,” said Groveston, also the head coach at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich. “The role that US Lacrosse plays in these communities across the country is critically important. I know because I see the impact of US Lacrosse first-hand. So many of these youth lacrosse players, who are coached, trained, and kept safe through US Lacrosse initiatives continue their careers and become our college players. We are grateful for the work and the resources of US Lacrosse.”

Stenersen welcomed the gathering to this “historic occasion” and noted that US Lacrosse has made a cumulative investment of $170 million in the sport’s development since ’98. He thanked campaign co-chairs Ed Calkins, Kristen Garlinghouse, Barclay Kass and Frank Kelly before introducing distinguished guests, many with passionate ties to lacrosse or the area.

Kevin Kamenetz, a lifelong resident of Baltimore County and now its chief executive, said he could not believe the campaign had progressed so far so quickly. Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Michael Busch, a former lacrosse official, said he was indebted to lacrosse for what it had given to him and to his lacrosse-playing daughters before relaying a funny story about efforts in the Maryland legislature to designate lacrosse as the state’s official sport. Officially, lacrosse is Maryland’s official team sport, in deference to a previous recognition of jousting.

Rich Morgan, chair of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors, said the new facility will “enhance US Lacrosse’s ability to serve the sport. We need to protect the youth experience so that America’s first sport can be handed down to future generations.”

Calkins, also the chair of the US Lacrosse Foundation Board of Directors, thanked predecessors John Ourisman and Bill Blanchard for their vision.

“Working on this project has underwritten the fact that there are so many great people involved in lacrosse,” Calkins said.

US Lacrosse purchased the land in December 2012 and has plans to move to the new site next spring.

Calkins joined Morgan, Kamenetz and Busch in unveiling a “coming soon” architectural rendering of the new facility that will remain on site. Then, with professional cameras zooming and cell phones doing their best to wiggle in, the guarantors of lacrosse’s future donned hard hats and took up engraved shovels, clearing a path in the dirt to a bright, new era for America’s oldest sport.