Lacrosse, an American Indian sport that has been largely played at East Coast colleges for decades, is booming in popularity.

And in yet another sign of that is the acquisition announced last week of Talon Lacrosse by Van Nuys sporting goods maker Easton-Bell Sports Inc. Terms were not disclosed.

Talon, a five-year-old privately held company based in San Carlos, makes a variety of lacrosse sticks.

Easton-Bell Chief Executive Paul Harrington said the deal made strategic sense, noting lacrosse is a “growth sport” and his company already makes a similar line of hockey equipment.

“There is tremendous crossover between the way that consumers look at equipment between hockey and lacrosse,” said Harrington, who plans to upgrade Talon’s line. “We have a tremendous research and development department.”

Indeed, lacrosse is one of the fastest growing field sports in the country, according to a study by National Collegiate Athletic Association teams. The number of female teams has tripled over the past 20 years to about 300, while more than 100 male teams have started, bringing the total to about 250.

Lacrosse has grown as an alternative to football for parents and athletes seeking a contact sport less violent that causes fewer injuries.

A professional league, Major League Lacrosse, was founded in 2001 and expanded locally with the Los Angeles Riptide in 2006. However, the league has struggled in some markets, with the Riptide shut down after three seasons of play.

Harrington, who noted his son plays the sport, said Easton was able to jump at the chance to purchase Talon because it was able to restructure its debt on better terms at the end of last year.

Products will be sold under the Easton brand, with Talon co-founders Doug Appleton, Cort Kim and Blake Kim joining the company. The products will be manufactured at Easton’s facility in Scotts Valley.

Soccer Network

Fox Soccer Channel will launch a new network in March to complement its 24-hour soccer programming. The L.A. network announced Fox Soccer Plus will broadcast exclusive matches such as England’s Barclays Premier League; UEFA Champions League; England’s FA Cup; and Italy’s Seria A, the league where David Beckham is currently on loan.

Specific matches have not yet been determined, but games will be broadcast in high definition.

Fox Soccer Channel bid on and won the exclusive rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League in America starting this year. Champions League is the second biggest soccer tournament behind the World Cup.

Comprehensive coverage of all 110 UEFA Champions League group stage matches is available to U.S. viewers for the first time ever, due to a unique content-sharing agreement between Fox Soccer Channel, FSN, Fox Sports en Espanol, Setanta Sports and DirecTV.

Sold-Out

When Staples Center celebrated its 10th year, it marked a significant anniversary for the arena. It also meant that an abnormally large number of the venue’s 160 original suites that were signed as 10-year contracts came up for renewal.

Many of the original suite holders were large companies, some of which no longer exist due to mergers and acquisitions. Remaining partners have been hesitant to sign long contracts, opting for shorter agreements.

Arena owner AEG said last week that it finally sold the remaining suites that became available when those decadelong commitments expired. The venue had fewer suites to sell, because it converted eight on the third level into the exclusive Hyde Lounge, a spin-off of the Hollywood club owned by Sam Nazarian’s SBE Entertainment.

Staples was the first arena in the country to convert suites into a club area. The club has been extremely popular for events such as music concerts and Lakers games, though it has been less popular during other family-oriented events such as Disney on Ice.

Coach’s Corner

The departure of Pete Carroll from USC’s football program and his replacement by former assistant Lane Kiffin is expected to have little short-term impact on ticket sales or sponsorship revenue.

The real question is whether USC will be sanctioned by the NCAA for recruiting violations associated with its football and basketball programs. There are allegations of misconduct associated with football players Reggie Bush and Joe McKnight as well as basketball player O.J. Mayo, accused of receiving improper cash and gifts while in school.

The biggest threat is to corporate sponsorship. The USC athletic department has several major corporate partners including Chevron Corp., Coca-Cola Co. and Lowe’s. Corporate sponsors typically are hesitant to associate themselves with a program that has been sanctioned by the NCAA.

USC’s basketball program is already under a self-imposed one-year postseason ban and reduction in scholarships for the next two years as punishment for playing games with an ineligible player.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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