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Houston SaberCats

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.”

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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?

Major League Rugby in Houston

Meet the Houston Strikers.

A group of rugby supporters are kicking around plans to build a rugby stadium in the area.

The ownership group behind the new Major League Rugby franchise the Houston Strikers is finalizing plans to develop a plot of land adjacent to the Houston Sports Park along TX-288 and south of Mowery Road. Now they’re sharing renderings of the $10 million rugby complex they’re looking to construct.

The Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash both practice at the complex which is ten miles south of downtown and just northwest of Pearland.

The Strikers would begin play in the city in 2018. The team would likely play in alternate parks as needed before their stadium is completed.

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The group has started the lengthy permitting process necessary before construction can begin. The City of Houston is also on board and excited about a community outreach possibility with the neighboring areas starved for programs for kids. The two parties have signed a memorandum of understanding.

The new stadium would initially have room enough in bleachers for up to 5,000 fans, with plans for expansion to accommodate much more than that.

The Strikers are one of ten organizations around the country signed on to the Major League Rugby group. There are teams in Dallas and in Austin as well. Two more cities in other states are about to sign on, according to Turner.

Here are the Major League Rugby website and the Houston Strikers Facebook page. I confess, I’ve never seen a rugby game, and I’m pretty fuzzy on the rules. I might give it a try once the Strikers are in their new home. Any rugby fans out there? Swamplot has pictures, and This Is American Rugby has more.