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SaberCats Stadium

Houston’s new pro rugby team will soon have a home.

The city’s burgeoning rugby community is poised to have a new home after City Council inked a $3.2 million deal Wednesday that paves the way for the Houston SaberCats to build a 3,500-seat stadium.

The SaberCats, one of seven new Major League Rugby franchises, plans to finish the new facility and two practice fields at Houston Amateur Sports Park, along Texas 288 in south Houston, in time for the beginning of its 2019 season.

The city, meanwhile, will retain ownership of the site, lease the property to the SaberCats for 43 years and use $3.2 million from its 2012 bond package to reimburse the team for the cost of installing a 760-space parking lot and adding public utilities.

“This is a major step forward,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said of the deal. “We say we’re an international city, and this helps to create those venues that can appeal to the interests of a very diverse population.”

SaberCats President Brian Colona echoed Turner’s enthusiasm.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled to have the city council back this thing with great support from Mayor Turner and his staff,” Colona said. “This is the quintessential example of good public-private partnership in order to advance the needs of the community, and we’re happy to be a part of that.”

[…]

As part of the deal OK’d Wednesday, the SaberCats have committed to providing at least 200 hours of free children’s rugby training annually, hosting high school rugby matches and running free rugby camps for children ages 6 through 14, among other types of community engagement.

See here for some background on the SaberCats, who as you can see were formerly known as the Strikers, and here for an earlier article on this deal, which again notes that funds from the 2012 bond referendum that were earmarked for this facility are what’s being used. The main reaction from the SaberCats’ Facebook page is “why only 3,500 seats?”, since a recent exhibition game had 5,000 in attendance. There will be some 4,000 standing room spots as well, so they ought to be covered for now. I’ve never actually seen a rugby game before, I may have to check this out when they have their grand opening. Any fans of the sport out there?

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11 Comments

  1. penwyth says:

    This is great news for our new sports team.

    Good use of readily available and previously earmarked public funds that present opportunity for community minded activities/experiences and the availability of these facilities for the promotion of the sport.

    I hope that the design of the 3,500 stadium is made with seating expansion in mind. The extensive standing room capacity will be nice, but viewing a game like rugby from the sidelines/endlines at eye level is a suboptimal experience. I predict seating demand will exceed availability next year.

    I attended the first exhbition match in Sugarland along with the rest of the national record setting 5,500 fans for a rugby club match. The atmosphere was electric with enthusiastic rugby fans.

    Major League Rugby, as a league, appears to be undertaking a smart strategy (e.g. long-term approach, marketing, national TV arrangement, etc) to its inaugural season which should lay the groundwork for a successful season and for the future with a number of expansion teams currently putting their puzzle pieces in place for 2019.

  2. David says:

    So, is anyone going to question how a city that is so on the verge of being bankrupt can afford 3.4 million more dollars for a stadium? The idea that this will ‘bring in more tax money’ is a difficult one where the city still has a revenue cap. The city also has four professional sporting facilities already, so what reason is there to make another one? Since these funds were ‘ear marked’ in 2012 everyone knows that in those six years Houstonians were told there is no more money to do anything, when in reality, are they making sacrifices for these types of facilities? Has Houston not learned from the Astrodome? Don’t build a facility that you will be responsible for the cost of upkeep while a sports team makes a lot of money off of leasing it from the city. If the city always states that it needs to be run like a business, this is bad business. If the city says that it cannot ‘just kick the can down the road’, that is just what it is doing. An investment with nothing but cost added to it and no ability to collect revenue, due to the cap, is not business at all, it is charity.

  3. David Fagan says:

    At the top of this page it says “knowledge is good”. My comment on this stadium, which was a relevant comment, was not allowed. I could accept bias, but maybe it should say “knowledge which the moderator deems to be good”. Congrats moderator, not all points of view are welcome?

  4. David Fagan says:

    So, is anyone going to question how a city that is so on the verge of being bankrupt can afford 3.4 million more dollars for a stadium? The idea that this will ‘bring in more tax money’ is a difficult one where the city still has a revenue cap. The city also has four professional sporting facilities already, so what reason is there to make another one? Since these funds were ‘ear marked’ in 2012 everyone knows that in those six years Houstonians were told there is no more money to do anything, when in reality, are they making sacrifices for these types of facilities? Has Houston not learned from the Astrodome? Don’t build a facility that you will be responsible for the cost of upkeep while a sports team makes a lot of money off of leasing it from the city. If the city always states that it needs to be run like a business, this is bad business. If the city says that it cannot ‘just kick the can down the road’, that is just what it is doing. An investment with nothing but cost added to it and no ability to collect revenue, due to the cap, is not business at all, it is charity.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    @David:

    I agree with your assessment. The city is gambling that the “Sabercats” will be around and solvent for 43 years. If a private bank wouldn’t make that loan guarantee, why should the CoH? Also correct that a city with perpetual money woes shouldn’t be investing in new infrastructure. No one learned anything from the Astrodome debacle, it seems.

    Also, if you posted a link, Kuff will block the post. Try posting without a link. I often have contrarian views here and credit Kuff with allowing opposing viewpoints. Save for the issue of links, OtK is very lightly moderated, IMHO. Credit where credit is due.

  6. First, yes, comments with links go into a moderation queue, as do comments from first-timers. I try to get to them as quickly as I can, but sometimes I don’t get to them for a day or two. I’d fire the people responsible for not being as responsive as you’d like, but that’s me, and that would not be very productive.

    Second, please read the story, in which it states the following:

    “The city, meanwhile, will retain ownership of the site, lease the property to the SaberCats for 43 years and use $3.2 million from its 2012 bond package to reimburse the team for the cost of installing a 760-space parking lot and adding public utilities.”

    In other words, the funds for this are already in place, from the 2012 bond referendum. This is work that was already on the schedule to be done. All that Council approved was for the SaberCats themselves to do the work, which we will then pay for as we would have paid a contractor.

    The money is already there. The work was already in the queue. All that was done was approve who was doing the work. Please put the pitchforks away.

  7. chris daniel says:

    I played Rugby for UT for 4 years. “Open-Side Flanker”. This will be exciting, and I hope it is sustainable. Do we know where on 288? Will it be along the rail line? As an amature sports facility, it can probably double up out of season for other lesser known sports.

    “Rugby is the hooligans sport played by gentlemen”–Winston Churchill

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    “First, yes, comments with links go into a moderation queue, as do comments from first-timers. I try to get to them as quickly as I can, but sometimes I don’t get to them for a day or two. I’d fire the people responsible for not being as responsive as you’d like, but that’s me, and that would not be very productive.”

    I think we’re going to request that you hire a moderator, so that we can subsequently demand that person’s firing, in a fit out outrage. 🙂

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    *of

  10. david fagan says:

    I’ve got to apologize for that comment. If I’d gotten that comment I probably wouldn’t have been very positive toward it.

  11. david fagan says:

    So, when several millions of dollars are provided by a bond deal for a field that will be utilized by a professional sports team, not only the Rugby team, but managed by the Houston Dynamo and used by them, and all of the funds that are raised by this complex are only allowed to be spent on this complex, is it any wonder Houston has a money problem? This is bad business for a city, great business for a professional soccer corporation and rugby corporation. The City essentially pays for the complex and all the money raised by the complex will be used for the complex and the several millions that came from a bond will not be available to be used in other areas of the city, which was the way it seems to be presented. Tax money assumed to be spent to raise more tax money (somehow, but unproven in many cases). This is a classic example of public funds for private profit.