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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Home sweet home: Rugby enjoys new digs

    The Arizona mens club rugby teams new scoreboard in Rincon Vista Complex is one of several features of the estimated $20,000 renovation of the facility. UA rugby coach Dave Sitton called it a very nice place for us to call home.
    The Arizona men’s club rugby team’s new scoreboard in Rincon Vista Complex is one of several features of the estimated $20,000 renovation of the facility. UA rugby coach Dave Sitton called it ‘a very nice place for us to call home.’

    For the first time in 37 years Arizona rugby has a true home-field advantage. In tandem with the Department of Campus Recreation, the team has constructed a rugby-specific facility on campus property, the first of its kind at Arizona.

    The new playing field, which includes a rye grass playing surface, or “”pitch,”” storage facilities, scoreboard and ice machine, will host all future Wildcat rugby home games.

    Head coach Dave Sitton described the renovations as “”everything short of having a full dedicated stadium.””

    “”It’s a very nice place for us to call home,”” he said.

    Campus Recreation contributed Arizona’s new rye grass playing surface, while Arizona rugby contributed rugby particulars like goal posts – which cost between $6,000 and $8,000.

    “”I can’t possibly say enough nice things about Campus Rec,”” Sitton said, “”and Facilities Management has helped with painting lines, painting structures and just getting this thing done.””

    In all, Sitton estimated that the project cost $20,000 to complete. In addition to receiving financial support from Campus Recreation, the rugby team was involved in extensive fundraising in conjunction with its alumni network and the Tucson Conquistadors, a local charitable group. In addition to raising money, players even got their hands dirty digging holes for the new goal posts and pouring concrete.

    So far, the team is 2-0 in its new home. Arizona rang in the new year with 58-5 housewarming victory over UC-San Diego Jan. 26, followed by a 36-15 victory over Claremont College two days later.

    Sitton was understandably giddy.

    “”We have three home games remaining,”” Sitton said. The next one comes March 2 against San Diego State. “”It’d be nice if we could clear out the year and never lose there. Right now I’m so happy I’m delusional enough to think we can do that forever.””

    Michael Papp, team vice president for special events, was equally thrilled.

    “”That was definitely a huge, huge feeling of pride to be able to open our new field and play as well as we did,”” said Papp, who scored three trys in the UCSD victory.

    Despite its long history at Arizona, rugby has been without a permanent home since the team’s inception in 1969, when its first match was played on an improvised field at Rincon High School.

    As the club grew in the ’70s, the team began to play home games in Arizona Stadium. But the narrow field made the site less than ideal for rugby, which requires a larger playing surface than football. Because the touch lines (out of bounds) began at the track, any player tackled out of bounds ran the risk of landing face first in something other than grass.

    Rugby has not played a game on campus property since 1978. The team relocated to the Tucson park system, first playing in Himmel Park in midtown Tucson and most recently Estevan Park.

    Now Arizona rugby has finally settled down, and for players like Papp, the homecoming couldn’t be sweeter.

    “”There is a feeling of pride and recognition on campus,”” Papp said. “”To finally be back on campus involves an enormous amount of pride. That we really have a place to call our own is a really special feeling.””

    Said Sitton: “”You got your scoreboard, you got your name up, it’s your turf. It’s a lot different feeling than just rolling over to a public park.””

    Now, thanks to a new storage facility, the team no longer has to use trailers to haul its equipment to Estevan Park, and a new scoreboard donated by Clear Channel Outdoor lets visiting teams know whose house they are playing in.

    In addition to the psychological advantage of having their own field, Arizona’s home field literally offers a physical edge.

    According to landscape manager George “”Bo”” Vanture, who oversaw the installation of Arizona’s new field surface, grass is important.

    “”That will make a big difference out there for those guys who play rugby and lacrosse,”” Vanture said. “”Playing that tackle football with no pads will give them a little bit of cushion.””

    Although Bermuda grass covers Rincon Vista’s fields in the summer, the grass goes dormant in the winter and dies. For the renovation to Rincon Vista, Vanture over-seeded the field with a perennial rye grass, which will stay lush and green throughout Arizona’s winter season, meaning Rincon Vista won’t look or feel like the UA Mall.

    There was some concern over whether or not the field would be seeded in time. Over-seeding is typically done by late October, and work on the new pitch was not begun until after the Thanksgiving holidays. But a stretch of warm weather and rain meant that Arizona would have a rugby field for the new year.

    “”Going as late as we did was really rolling the dice, but we got lucky,”” Vanture said.

    Arizona rugby faced other challenges in the construction process. Because Rincon Vista used to be the location of housing for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the team struck the foundations of old buildings when trying to install its new goal posts.

    “”We had some challenges, but that’s nothing compared to the challenge of waiting over 37 years to get on campus,”” Sitton said.

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