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16 years in Making, Seattle Gets Rugby Venue

Thursday Apr 23, 2009 in Off the Field General

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April 23, 2009 – It’s been 16 years in the making, with a history peppered with way too much hope and more than a little abject disappointment, but Saturday the City of Seattle gets its own rugby field.

Playing rugby in this Northwest town where grass grows on pretty much everything has not been easy. Fields have been woefully hard to secure, and those that are secured come with their own special brand of molehills, sandy baseball infields, and the odd manhole cover.

It’s been an embarrassment for clubs, and a frustration as they have worked and lobbied to get a field in Magnusson Park near the University of Washington. Spearheaded by the tireless Kris Bush, the field plan was almost scuttled due to neighbors who opposed any sports in the park. But finally the sporting life prevailed (Magnusson is home to all sorts of sporting activities, not just rugby), and on Saturday Old Puget Sound will host SFGG in a Super League game, and several other games and events will be held there.

Mayor Greg Nickels will open the field and the Seattle Fire Department Pipe & Drum Band will present the National Anthem.

“It’s a huge day,” said OPSB head coach Evan Haigh. “It’s been embarrassing for us sometimes to have to host Super League games on some of the fields we have had to use. Now we have a field where we don’t have to line it, don’t have to cart in posts, and that just saves us so much time and effort.”

The City of Seattle will maintain the field, which is IRB-approved Field Turf, and while they charge for usage, the costs are small, especially for youth. The field itself is permanently lined for rugby, has posts on-site (it is undetermined whether the posts will be up all season, or just at specific times, but they are tall, well-built posts), and is lighted for night-time usage.

OPSB will practice there as well as play, and the field could be a regular practice location for several teams.

“I am absolutely elated,” said Bush, who first conceived of the plan for a rugby-specific venue in Seattle in 1993. Along the way it all seemed to fall flat, when neighbors of Magnusson Park put up vociferous resistant to a proposed 11-field athletic complex. In the end soccer, baseball and other sports lost their chance, but rugby, thanks to Bush and some others, stood firm. The other sports had places to go, Bush had said. Rugby had nowhere.

“If you think about the losses that other sports endured in that development, and how rugby held tough, I am really proud,” said Bush. “After all this we’re getting our field. Not only is it a state-of-the-art surface, I was able to get the city to install to IRB specifications and they are moving ahead with IRB testing. I couldn’t be happier.”

This is the first designated rugby field the city of Seattle has ever had and soon there will be more rugby venues in the region, as a five-field complex in Auburn, Wash. which accommodates all sports but will be built with rugby specifications and usage in mind, is under construction.

“At minimum it’s going to provide more playable hours so the programs that do exist can actually be enhanced,” said Bush. “But when I think back to when we had over 100 girls at Garfield High School signed up to play rugby and less than ¼ acre spot to practice in,  know it will help develop new programs as well.”

Field Turf if the way to go, even in the damp Northwest, said Bush. It is low-maintenance, environmentally friendly (built with recycled materials and requires no watering, fertilizer or pesticides), and all-weather.

“My little dream has finally come true,” said Bush.

Bush acknowledged the work of many who helped her along the way. Most were not rugby people, but people who supported the dream because they thought it was a good idea.

Peter Lukovic, 2nd president of Friends of Athletic Fields and a tireless meeting-attender. Scott Freeman, “who found a way to make me laugh every time we lost ground.” Warren Perkins, who worked hard to convert neighborhood support. Bill Farmer, also of Friends of Athletic Fields. Jeff Clayton, Phil Killien, Phoebe Russell, and former Pacific Northwest RFU officer Chuck Depew.

Now, said Bush, it is up to the Seattle-area rugby community to support the plan. They can donate money for extra amenities at http://nwpf.parks.officelive.com/GiveNow.aspx, or they can simply “be a good partner with Seattle Park Department for doing the right thing, support cleanup parties, and make sure we use it the right way.”

Much work to do, then, but for now this weekend is a celebration of something that is a long, long time coming.

Magnusson Park Rugby Field Opening Weekend Schedule:
Match 1  10:00 AM  U-14 Demo/Jamboree
Match 2  11:00 AM   Seattle University vs. UW Women
Opening Ceremony  12:15 to 12:45 Mayor ceremony
Seattle Fire Department Pipe & Drum Band and National Guard Anthem
Match 3  1:00 PM   San Francisco Golden Gate vs. OPSB Super League
Match 4  2:30 PM     Liberty vs. Seattle U19 League match
Match 5  4:00 PM     Kent vs. Valley U19 League match

April 26
10am-4pm Washington Youth Rugby Girls U19 Playoffs.

Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com

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