While this year’s offseason is especially celebratory in fashion, this summer isn’t the first time the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) championship hardware ended its season in Colorado, nor the first championship secured for the storied franchise. Even the average Mammoth fan would be able to recall the ever-elite 2006 run, the first all-encompassing win under the burgundy and black color scheme. But, not even that legendary team represented the beginning of the Mammoth’s long-tenured history.
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment announcing that Colorado’s new lacrosse team would soon take the form of the Mammoth, the organization remains thankful for its dedicated fans. From the East Coast to the DMV and all the way west to its Loud House home at Ball Arena, THIS is Mammoth Lacrosse:
Originally constructed as the Baltimore Thunder in 1987, the franchise went on to capture the first-ever Eagle Pro Box Lacrosse League championship, which would later be crested as the NLL, during the league’s inaugural season. Based in Baltimore, Maryland and featuring red, black and yellow as its primary look, the Thunder enjoyed 13 seasons in the professional league under that alias until 1999. It was right before the beginning of the new millennium that the organization announced it would be moving to Pittsburgh as the Pittsburgh CrossFire. Despite posting a 6-6 record during its inaugural and only season, the CrossFire successfully defended its home turf racking up a 4-2 record, but ultimately failed to attract regular crowds.
Choosing to relocate east, to the nation’s capital, the organization set course for the Washington D.C. area with a renewed “Washington Power” branding approach. Reminiscent of the current Washington Capitals’ or Wizards’ look mixed with an older, blockier blue and red font, the franchise participated two NLL seasons, posting a 9-5 record year one and a 9-7 sheet during its second and final year. Despite one of the team’s star forwards, Paul Gait, being named the 2002 Most Valuable Player during that campaign, the difficult decision to weigh its operations options came as the season expired.
(Enter Steve Govett and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment)
Spring 2002: Govett is serving as President and General Manager of the Washington Power. The combination of average on-field production and subpar attendance is beginning to force the franchise to consider options to financially justify its efforts.
On the outskirts of the then-dominated East Coast lacrosse scene, Govett and the organization knew some sort of change was inevitable. What they didn’t know was their upcoming franchise relocation would not only help to shape the NLL’s presence in the western United States, but would create waves in the collegiate lacrosse world and eventually establish Colorado as the lacrosse mecca of the west.
Recognizing the opportunity and weighing the challenges, Govett began reaching out to contacts with a vision; a product that had a majority of the pieces together which needed an avenue, a home, a community and an ownership group that would allow it to spread its wings and take flight.
Govett, a former player and experienced executive, understood the excitement, physicality and raw athleticism the sport presented. His task was identifying an opportunity to make the situation work. Instead, Govett stumbled upon the league’s next home run.
After months of chatting and receiving a series of recommendations from business folks, sports professionals and beyond, Govett eventually crossed paths with an entertainment group in Colorado which became growingly interested in adding another high-intensity source of entertainment to be featured in the beautiful, new Pepsi Center (Ball Arena).
“The entire experience started with one phone call; that conversation arguably ended up changing the trajectory of lacrosse out west and helped establish Colorado as a franchise that represents the state and league respectively while continuing to grow and execute the game at high levels,” Govett shared.
Described as “the market coming to the community” Colorado was ready for some more action-packed fun in downtown Denver. What they didn’t know was that Mammoth games at Pepsi Center (Ball Arena) would eventually average higher per-contest attendance figures than neighboring residents in the Denver Nuggets and 2001 Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche.
“We knew what we were bringing to the table, but credit goes to Stan (Kroenke) and the leadership team for getting all of the pieces right,” Govett shared. “We created a niche product that provided affordable, family-friendly entertainment which also allowed folks to experience the Pepsi Center.”
Following Kroenke Sports & Entertainment’s official acquisition and relocation of the franchise, the Colorado Mammoth was born. Working with sales and marketing departments to produce noise for the new team in town, the Mammoth brand would soon be passionately embraced by the Colorado community.
20 Years Ago in an Arena (not) so Far Away …
June 9, 2002: Govett and the gang are preparing for the team’s introductory press conference. Transitioning from a program in Washington which struggled to stay relevant and attract fans to its arena, Govett quickly realized the levels of support and excitement were a bit “elevated” in the 303.
“I kid you not, there were a few hundred people in attendance (at the press conference) that day,” Govett shared as he laughed and reflected on the day. “Between KSE employees, lacrosse fans, media members and executive support, we had a packed house that day, and that seemed to be the pattern for the ensuing future.”
Referenced as a unique combination of proper pricing, access to a state-of-the art building, the excitement surrounding the sport and a little bit of good timing, “the rest is history, really,” Govett shared. “We also had Gary Gait.”
Classy Organization, Legendary Logo
There are a few renditions of how exactly one of the best logos in professional sports came to be, but we chose to go right to the source from that 2002 team responsible. In chatting with a former Mammoth Marketing executive, we derived the following anecdote on its origination:
“Frontier Airlines had an OK over the name as part of their sponsorship and the “Whole Different Animal” brand they were building. So, it had to be an animal and there were several potentials. Bears (because of the Hershey Bears being the Avs’ farm team at the time, but the copyright was still owned by the Denver Bears baseball team); Colorado Cougars (fierce, but players didn’t like the idea because of the newly-emerging identification of cougars with post-game stalker ladies). Then, we were watching the news on the TV in my office and a news report came on about mammoth fossils being discovered near Parker. Suddenly, everything was a “mammoth” win; a mammoth family night package and…Colorado Mammoth Lacrosse – it’s going to be huge!”
Eventually partnering with Adrenalin Design Group to conceptualize the logo details and design, the teams were able to drum up a creative, expressive way of letting the Citizens of the Loud House know this team would be special. Originally drawn up on a napkin early in the creative imagery process, the “M” which resembles a mammoth’s tusks quickly stuck, but their formation would be altered. Curving the (screen-left) tusk down and then back up, (TUSK UP), the design team turned the mammoth tusks to the side so that the curl of the further one would resemble a “C” for Colorado.
While fans have come to love and recognize the combined Mammoth logo, the organization initially used the accompanying wordmark form, centered by the Mammoth logo, but paired with three lines of text extending from the Mammoth logo in the form of “Colorado Mammoth Lacrosse,” as its primary logo for years. Eventually the franchise opted into ditching the wordmark and continue to roll with the classic logo as its primary stamp.
… And the rest is history – Mammoth have only missed playoffs once during its 18 seasons in Colorado and have had the pleasure of rostering NLL and lacrosse greats such as Gary and Paul Gait, John Grant Jr., Brian Langtry, Gavin Prout, Gee Nash and beyond, with current NLL legends Dillon Ward, Joey Cupido and company continuing to cement their legacies with the organization after capturing the 2022 NLL Championship over the Buffalo Bandits.