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During a visit to Rugby School in England a few years ago, the most surprising fact in regard to its celebrated past and current rugby history is that it operates thirteen pitches. Of course, since the school was founded in the 16th-Century far from London, by the time the sport arrived in 1823, there was ample country land on which to establish multiple playing areas for the eponymous game.
When rugby started to proliferate in the United States from the 1960s onward, colleges and clubs always faced the daunting assignment of trying to find or to wheedle land (private or mainly, public) for a newly designated pitch. Remembering New York City as an example, the city clubs (Manhattan RFC, New York RFC, and Old Blue RFC) played games in Central Park, on Governor’s Island, Van Cortland Park, and, finally, Randall’s Island. The last one (which hosts the annual New York 7s Thanksgiving tournament) was originally unavailable for rugby because the Parks Department believed that soccer teams already used the fields on the weekend. Ruggers visited Randall’s every weekend for a month, recording no soccer games at all, and, when presented with this truth, the Parks Department relented.
Seeking permanent fields has long been difficult for American clubs because land – especially, in urban centers - is scarce and expensive to buy. But one unique solution was featured in Rugby Magazine in the last month of 2007. This was a four-year follow up story about Elkhart, Indiana’s Penn High School RFC. Referee and coach Bart Bottorff convinced the local Moose Lodge (in 2003) to partner with the rugby community and develop a five-acre portion of the lodge's spacious facility. (NB: The Loyal Order of Moose is a fraternal and service organization founded in 1888, with nearly 1 million men in 2,400 Lodges in the USA and Canada.)
From the beginning of the agreement, the rugby clubs donated time and money to improve the facility to the benefit of the Moose. The three, full sized fields were complemented by a pavilion, restrooms, and a concession stand.
The facility expanded rugby usage to host Midwest Boys Championships, and to host USA National Youth Teams at summer camp activities.
A smart idea became a success for both parties.