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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Take a sport made popular in the northeastern USA, place it on a Division I college football field in Boca Raton, and add some Florida flair, and you have the Florida Launch. Nestled in a growing hotbed of lacrosse talent, this team has found a way to make what many in South Florida may (unfortunately) overlook as a boring and uninteresting sport into something that is both family-friendly and pulse-pounding the entire game.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food options at Florida Launch games are actually quite impressive. The prices are not that high, compared to most major sporting events. A burger, soda, and fries will cost less than $15, which, in stadium terms, is a steal.
Set up on the Delray Hyundai Deck, food options vary as well, from beer and sodas to fresh pretzels, giant buckets of popcorn, pulled pork barbecue, and even Chick-fil-A catering on site.
Another plus is the convenience of the locations on the lower levels. You never have to walk too far to find somewhere to grab food, which can be an issue at other locations.
The Florida Launch do a good job of getting the fans into the game. With full replays of every scoring opportunity and big play on the big screen scoreboard, fans will never sit and wish they could see a replay of that game-defining moment.
The team also does a great job of marketing towards youth lacrosse leagues, families, and kids in the area, making this a wonderful addition for someone looking to take the family out to a quality professional sporting event without the insanity that comes along with the NFL, NBA, or MLB.
Situated on a college campus, there is also a sense of security, as the stadium is separated from the rest of the surrounding area, while at the same time providing that sense of being in a big bowl stadium worthy of professional sports.
Boca Raton is a beautiful part of Palm Beach County. In addition, FAU's campus is clean, South Florida-esque in appearance, and overall visually appealing. Not far from the campus is a beautiful strip shop that plays host to a PF Changs, J. Alexanders, Shake Shack, Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, and more. Equidistant to the east of campus is the Atlantic Ocean. There, you can find a beautiful beach, as well as the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where visitors can get a look at some of coastal Florida's natural habitats and inhabitants, thanks to boardwalks through the mangroves and natural butterfly gardens.
Near the beach, hotels are easy to find. What Boca Raton lacks in nightlife more commonly found in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the area more than makes up for in relaxation. In addition, Palm Beach International Airport isn't far from Boca Raton, with Fort Lauderdale and Miami less than an hour away, as well.
The fan totals are notoriously low for lacrosse, due mostly in part to the sport's lack of general popularity next to other professional sports. However, that said, the Florida Launch does have a solid base of loyal fans who show up and cheer on their favorite team with immense pride. Kids can be seen wearing their favorite player's jersey while their parents debate the statistics of the latest game results with sport-intensive knowledge one expects from true die-hards.
When the Launch score a goal, the entire place erupts in a cheer that rivals those of crowds four times as large during FAU football games. Make no mistake, despite their relatively small size, the Launch faithful are loud, proud, and expanding.
Getting to FAU is easy to do. Unlike several sports teams or colleges where the campus stadiums are miles away from the highway exits, FAU is quite literally bordered by I-95 in Boca Raton. Also, just a few miles west is Florida's Turnpike. Once off the exit from I-95, the FAU campus is immediately visible. Parking is quite plentiful, and even if you get stuck in a lot or garage that is a little further from the stadium, the walk is not very far and is through a beautiful campus. Parking for Florida Launch games is a very affordable $10 per car right in front of the stadium.
With a single-game ticket starting at just $15, a family of four can spend less than $100 for a full night of professional sports that includes parking, food and beverages, and do so in a family-friendly setting in one of the best neighborhoods in all of South Florida. Situated in Palm Beach County, the team can draw from Miami to the south and as far as Jupiter to the north. Not bad, considering that many view FAU as out of the way. However, when looking at what you get in return, this full-contact sport of high-intensity excitement is well worth a look for those looking to take the family to a night of sport and to expand their own horizons.
The Launch do a lot of community outreach, be it with inviting local youth lacrosse programs to help serve as ball kids, to getting mascots from other sports teams in the area (Florida Panthers, etc.) to show up.
Speaking of mascots, the Launch's mascot is Apollo, a brown monkey that is a nod to the state's space history (Apollo for NASA's moon program, and the monkey for the first monkey sent into space by NASA before humans).
Another bonus is the addition of charging stations. FAU Stadium recently added mobile charging stations to recharge your phone or tablet at the game, making it very convenient to get a power boost on your device.
For big-time sports fans, there is the Howard Schnellenberger statue just inside the main entrance.
Finally, fans can also relax under the shade of the palm trees on beach lounge chairs before, during, or after the games, something you won't get at other games.
When one thinks of professional sports in South Florida, most may skip over the Florida Launch. This would be a grave mistake, given both the overall excitement of the sport of lacrosse and the quality of the game day experience.
From the small but loyal fan base that includes tailgaters during pre-game hours, to the roar of the crowd from the grandstands with every Launch goal, visiting a Florida Launch game may be a surprisingly pleasant experience for every fan, be they casual or hardcore.
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