February 6, 2014

Lifestyles: Mac Freeman and Winning Lax in the West

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Freeman has used his lacrosse and sports experience in his career with the Broncos and Outlaws. (Denver Broncos)

Mac Freeman credits his short-lived lacrosse career with where he is now: senior vice president of business development for the NFL's Denver Broncos and president of MLL's Denver Outlaws.

Freeman, a 1989 Hampden-Sydney graduate, was behind several attackmen on the depth chart early in his college career, and once he decided he wasn't going to leapfrog them, Freeman got involved in the business side of athletics. There have been many stops since then, but Freeman now runs all things revenue-related with the Broncos. He also was the driving force behind creating Denver's prosperous MLL franchise.

What does your job entail with the Broncos?

I oversee all the revenue lines of business — everything from ticketing, to suite sales, to premium seating sales, to sponsorship sales, community development as well as the stadium. The lacrosse connection is I'm president of the Denver Outlaws. I wear a bunch of different hats, but the primary role with the Broncos is overseeing revenue generation. We've got about 160 full-time staff and on game day, if you include the stadium staff, it can get as high as 5,000.

What about your role with the Outlaws?

I'm the president of the team. I was the guy who talked Mr. Bowlen (Broncos owner Pat Bowlen) into expanding the company into lacrosse from football. It's been a passion of mine and a love of mine since we kicked it off. We've had great success from a fan engagement and an attendance level. We've had great success on the field. We're still hunting for our first championship, but hope that is in the near future.

What's your lacrosse playing background?

I was an attackman at Hampden-Sydney. I had a short and undistinguished career on the field. I didn't pick up a stick until junior year of high school, but I had a pretty good senior year and fell in love with the game. When I got to Hampden-Sydney, I lettered my freshman year, but I was behind several future All-American attackmen and decided I was going to put my time into something else, which is what led to me getting in sports.

When I stopped playing, I took a sports internship in Richmond and ran the intramural program at Hampden-Sydney. That's actually what opened the doors to the sports path. After that first year, because it was so crowded at attack, I went out fall ball of my sophomore year and tried picking up a long stick, but I was not going to catch up to a lot of the talent on the team.

The end of my lacrosse career ended up opening the doors to the sports career. And even though I found myself into football, I ended up coming back to lacrosse.

How did you talk Pat Bowlen into starting a pro lacrosse franchise in Denver?

He's Canadian, so he was familiar with the game. That helped. His son had played high school lacrosse at Kent Denver (Colo.) and had won a state championship. I wasn't starting from square one. When we looked at it, I had affection for the game from playing it when I was younger. Lacrosse still had a lot of growth left in it. He saw that as a long-term opportunity. It engaged the youth today and the growth statistics are exciting. It's growing as fast as any sport out there. We believe it's going to continue. He had an appreciation for the game, believed in the growth of it and he was good enough to let us take a swing at it.

What was your first job out of college?

I actually interned at the Richmond Coliseum two days a week my senior year at Hampden-Sydney, and they offered me a job starting the Monday after I graduated. I went into the marketing department at the Richmond Coliseum in 1989. I was there for several years and became the director of marketing, and then I made the big move from secondary market to big market, to Los Angeles, and was director of marketing at the L.A. Coliseum, where I had the L.A. Raiders at the time, the Clippers and USC football and basketball.

I went to Pittsburgh and worked with the Penguins, Pirates and the Steelers after L.A., and then I came out to Denver in May of 1998, between the two John Elway Broncos Super Bowls. For a native New Yorker — I was born in Manhattan and grew up in Bronxville, N.Y. — I never thought I would end up in the middle of the country. Somehow that happened.

This interview originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription!

What are some of the challenges of your day-to-day job?

It's a wildly competitive business on many fronts. In football, you have to generate the revenue so you can give the football side all the resources they need to put the best product on the field they can. We're working hard. We're in a great place right now. Denver, in particular, is a crowded sports landscape for the size of the market. We had a lot of competition. We've got to hustle and continue to drive revenue to make sure that the Broncos football side can put the best product on the field.

When you have a star like Peyton Manning, how do you capitalize on that in a business sense?

It's interesting. Denver is roughly the 20th size market in the country, and Elway in the late '90s really made a smaller market team a national brand. There's been ups and downs in between, but actually bringing Elway back on in the front office and his subsequent move to bring Peyton here, it's put the Bronco brand right at there at the top. There was a recent poll that had us as the second-most popular sports team in America. It's amazing what a guy like Peyton can do for your brand.

Are you looking forward to the FIL World Championship in Denver this summer?

This summer's world championship will set a new standard. It's had moderate success in the past. This is something that Denver is really going to embrace. The world championship will be viewed differently after this summer. This is the step forward to make it a really premier event.

What do you think about the 2015 NCAA men's quarterfinals heading to Sports Authority Field?

It's the continued momentum of what's been going on here for while. It's been great to watch and be a part of what's happened out here in the west with lacrosse, and particularly in Denver. The passion and the spirit of the lacrosse community out here are phenomenal. It's been building for the last decade, really. We launched the Outlaws in the MLL back in 2006, then you have the emergence of the University of Denver lacrosse program with them luring out Coach [Bill] Tierney and getting to a final four. It was great was when they announced the quarterfinal will be here, and this summer the world championship. Denver has really become a hotbed for the game. There is a great spirit around it.

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