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The history of rugby in the United States has always revolved around the tenuous, and oft times frustrating, search for adequate fields. Owing to the minimum width allowed under the sport’s rules, the abundance and availability of high school and college football fields prohibited rugby from using these narrow pitches.
With the expansion of club rugby in the 1960s and 1970s, these organizations discovered the paucity of public city/town land available that could accommodate a rugby field. Every American club can narrate horrible and hilarious stories of substandard grounds without grass, without lines, without goalposts or covered with dog or bird droppings or shattered glass. (Who can forget the sloped Randall Island, NYC pitch with the iron manhole cover?)
If private land did exist, what club could afford the exorbitant purchase price for urban or suburban realty?
But, on occasion, stars aligned to offer clubs a prime piece of public land within easy commuting distance. And one of these success stories occurred in San Francisco in 2007, the acquisition of a pitch on Treasure Island, a constructed island, anchored under the Oakland Bridge in San Francisco Bay.
The San Francisco Golden Gate RFC (SFGG) was the benefactor of this former U.S. Naval Base turf. Its acquisition story can serve as future model for other clubs bent on finding local space. When the navy left, the land was turned over to the Treasure Island Development Authority. SFGG secured playing rights there in 2002 at about the time the club also started to increase its youth rugby (U-19) program.
The reinvigorated youth program proved the key to securing a long-term lease of the field and the takeover of the Post Exchange for a clubhouse. Cities want to develop boys and girls athletic facilities that reach into the community.
For the past nine-years, SFGG has welcomed clubs and tournaments to its grassy, well-marked, goal post padded pitch.