New park could benefit Hornets

Marshall Hampson

The Sacramento Valley Rugby Foundation’s plan to build a rugby complex in Mather Field Park is on its way to being cleared by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.

The plan to build the 1,400-acre complex is estimated at $5 million and was first introduced to the county staff six years ago. The rugby facility will consist of four fields, a rugby history center and a two-story banquet building for Sacramento State to use.

The park is a centralized location for most of the teams in the area and is 8.9 miles away from Sac State campus. The men and women’s rugby teams currently use the sporting field behind Yosemite Hall for practices and games, but the field is in poor condition.

According to the preliminary blueprint, two of the four fields will be called “championship fields” &- one being built with field turf instead of grass. The championship fields are where most of the big match-ups will be played in the tournaments they host.

Jerry Ahlin, president of the rugby foundation, said he wanted this complex to be built because he didn’t have a facility like this growing up when he played rugby 28 years ago. Mather Field Park was one of the cheapest pieces of land the foundation could find when trying to find somewhere to put the complex, he said.

“Throughout the years it was difficult to find a place to play,” Ahlin said. “The rugby community has been waiting for a place to play for years.”

Sacramento State Women’s Rugby Club President Lisa Roselin said she loves the plan to get a new complex built so close to Sac State.

“The Sac State men’s and women’s rugby clubs as well as the Sacramento Capitals have all worked their way up to compete a Division I level,” she said. “It would be amazing for the city to support their athletes and give them a field that they can be proud of.”

The County of Sacramento staff and the Sacramento Valley Rugby Foundation are working on an 87-year lease for the project, which still must be approved by the Sacramento County Parks Committee on Thursday before heading to the county supervisors for final approval.

Along with all the turf fields built in stadiums, the initial expense of installing the turf field is much higher than a grass field. But Ahlin has no problem getting one turf field in this complex.

“Obviously it costs money to build a nice field but it will actually end up paying for itself in 10 years,” Ahlin said. “Parents want to see their kids playing at nice facilities.”

Unlike most fields in the area that have minimal seating and standing room on the sidelines to watch, this complex will have bleachers put in to accommodate 3,000 to 4,000 rugby fans.

“Every one of our fans is considered part of our team,” Roselin said. “Having the potential to have 3,000 people at our games is overwhelming. It would be an awesome experience to entertain so many rugby supporters.”

Since the facility requires a big budget, the rugby foundation partnered up with San Juan Soccer Club to share the fields and are planning fundraisers to pay for the construction.”We will seek whatever funds we can get,” said Ray Thompson, the rugby foundation’s secretary. “We will get a massive fundraising event going to help. We have a lot of pledges already for when we actually get the land.”

The complex will host tournaments, conference games and practices throughout the rugby season and will have learning programs to get more rugby coaches and referees in the area.

Ahlin said he is supportive of the Sac State program hopes to get many teams involved with the complex as possible including other college-level teams, high school and middle school programs.

Other additions to the facility will include a parking lot that can fit approximately 260 cars and a sloped landscaping plaza right next to the turf field for viewing games if the fans decide not to use the stadium’s seating.

Thompson said the last couple of steps of showing the plan to the Parks Committee and the Board of Supervisors should go well for the rugby foundation because the supervisors need make sure everything is realistic and that they are serious about completing this project.

The date for the lease to be signed by the Sacramento County Supervisors has not been set and will not be set until the meeting Thursday with the Parks Committee has been successfully completed.

Marshall Hampson can be reached at [email protected]