SALT LAKE CITY — Marcus Holman, a University of Utah assistant lacrosse coach and professional athlete, agreed with a humorous quote a fellow Premier Lacrosse League player recently made about being able to play their favorite sport during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’d be pumped if they announced today that it was going to be played in a cornfield in Nebraska,” Redwoods Lacrosse Club attackman Ryder Garnsey told US Lacrosse Magazine, “as long as we are playing.”

Athletes from the Premier Lacrosse League — including Holman and two other Ute assistants and Archers teammates, Will Manny (attackman) and Adam Ghitelman (goalie) — will get that opportunity over the next two and a half weeks in the burgeoning lacrosse hotbed of Herriman instead of Nebraska (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter).

All the better that the 16-day tournament will be played at Zions Bank Stadium, the home of the Real Monarchs that just hosted a similar tournament for the National Women’s Soccer League. 

“It could have been anywhere in the world and I would have shown up and competed,” Holman said.

Holman played for North Carolina and grew up in lacrosse-crazed Maryland, but Utah is his home now because his job with the U. He called it “incredible” that the world’s elite lacrosse players will vie for the PLL Championship Series in a place that’s affectionately called Salt Lax City by lovers of a sport making a headway out West — in part because of the work the Utes have done.

Because of COVID-19, the PLL was forced to cancel its second regular season, like every other professional league in the country, so there was a lot of uncertainty about what might be possible this year.

“It was scary at one point to think we wouldn’t be able to compete or have a season and to have a chance to play for a championship,” Holman said. “To only be in Year 2 and continue the momentum from year one takes a lot of hard work and dedicated people, and the PLL definitely has that in their employees.”

That the PLL worked out a safe alternative in a quarantined situation that happens to be across the valley from the college he coaches at is a huge deal for the Ute trio.

“I love being a part of this Archers team and I still have a huge passion for playing lacrosse. When they announced it was in Utah, it was amazing,” Holman said. “It was like the stars are aligning for myself, Will and Adam to pretty much have a home tournament.”

One downside is that fans will not be allowed to watch the games in person, but that just comes with the territory in these unusual times. Fans can purchase a pass to watch all 20 games in the PLL tournament on NBC Sports Gold. Games will be shown on a variety of NBC platforms, including Saturday afternoon’s tournament-opener between the Redwoods and Whipsnakes on NBC. That opportunity arose after the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics were pushed back to 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns.

Other teams in the seven-team PLL include the Archers, Atlas, Chaos, Chrome and Waterdogs. None of the teams has a central base — the league’s headquarters are in Los Angeles — as the squads travel to the same site for multiple games each weekend during a normal season. The concept is similar to how PGA and NASCAR events are held in different locations every week.

Holman believes the tournament would have had sizable crowds in Utah if spectators were allowed, but he still takes great pride in the fact that the PLL chose to come to his adopted home for the event. Salt Lake City had been scheduled to host a weekend of action in the 2020 season before the pandemic changed everything.

Holman said he’s heard nothing but good things from those in the PLL about Utah, a place that’s won him over since he relocated here to help build the Utes’ new Division I lacrosse program with his dad and Utah head coach Brian Holman.

“All I can say is I’m not surprised,” said Marcus Holman, who’s even been pleasantly surprised about Utah’s seasonal weather. “We haven’t been making up what we’ve been trying to tell people about the state of Utah — that it’s beautiful. It’s a hidden gem in the United States.”

While in the makeshift lacrosse bubble is in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley, players are staying in nearby hotels and being regularly tested for the coronavirus. They had to be tested 72 hours before departing for Utah, then again upon arrival and one more time before play begins this weekend. The PLL is being so protective of its players and personnel that fewer than 300 people are being allowed on-site. Local media isn’t even allowed.

The tournament will consist of group play from July 25-Aug. 2, with each team playing four games. The teams will then be seeded for the elimination round.

Manny believes the exposure will be a boon for lacrosse and Salt Lake City.

“It is just so good for the sport,” the attackman told US Lacrosse. “Obviously, no one will be able to watch it in person, but the amount of times they’re going to say ‘Salt Lake City’ on NBC and NBC Sports is going to be huge.”

Holman said he’s stoked to play on the same pro team as two Ute coaches.

“I couldn’t imagine playing against those guys,” Holman said. “We’re in the trenches pretty much all year round, game-planning with Utah lacrosse college players and preparing ourselves. Those guys are like brothers to me. I don’t think of them as peers anymore because we’ve spent so much time together. It’s special.”