ASHKELON, ISRAEL – The first dedicated lacrosse field in the Middle East will be built as part of a national training center for the sport in Ashkelon, a coastal Mediterranean city in Israel’s south.
The project is the latest by a determined Israel Lacrosse Association to boost the sport in the Jewish State. The eight-year-old ILA, which will be headquartered at the new facility, recently hosted the 2018 Men’s World Championship and the 2019 Women’s European Championship, bringing over 10,000 visitors to Israel for the two major quadrennial events.
Israel’s national teams have had unprecedented success since making their debut in 2012. Israel’s women are ranked #6 in the world, and the men are ranked #7, however, homegrown junior teams have not yet had the same international success. Local development is steady but continues to face several challenges, with lack of facilities being a primary culprit.
Field time is at a premium in Israel, where soccer is king, often leaving up-and-coming sports like lacrosse to train in bumpy parks and on cement basketball courts. According to Israel’s Ministry of Sport, the country has 372 fields; a ratio of 44 fields per million people. For comparison, Germany has 607 fields per million people, England has 547 fields per million people, and Iceland has 543 per million people.
“As an emerging sport in Israel, getting onto fields has been an uphill battle for us,” said David Lasday, Israel Lacrosse’s Chief Operating Officer. “We see our new national training center as an historic opportunity to elevate the sport in our region, while also doubling-down on our commitment to Israel’s underserved periphery.”
The Ashkelon Municipality has identified a site for the facility in the Voldenberg neighborhood of the city. Already equipped with lighting and seating for spectators, the current grass field is used regularly by the sport, known for hosting tournaments which regularly become “mud-bowls” due to winter rain and overuse. The site is steps from Ashkelon’s central bus station, making the proposed facility accessible to athletes from across the country.
“We are excited and proud that Israel’s National Lacrosse Training Center will be in Ashkelon,” said Marcelo Burdman, Ashkelon’s Head of Sport. “Ashkelon and Baltimore are sister cities, and it is fitting that lacrosse in Israel will call Ashkelon home.”
Phase one of the project, which the Association hopes to complete by the end of the year, includes financing the new synthetic field-turf with men’s and women’s lacrosse lines and repair to the fencing around the field. Later phases include plans for locker rooms, offices, a scoreboard, a box lacrosse rink, running track, and strength and conditioning equipment.
The project is primarily being funded by private contributions, small and large, through Israel Lacrosse’s #GivingTuesday campaign. The Association has secured partial government funding through a sports infrastructure grant in conjunction with the recent Women’s European Championships.