Elite rugby makes its home in Langford
The country’s top rugby players will soon be training year-round at City Centre Park.
Langford has partnered with Rugby Canada to becomes the national headquarters for Canada’s men’s and women’s rugby teams as they prepare for world and Olympic competition.
Trevor Arnold, director of rugby based out of Rugby Canada’s Victoria office, said the organization was looking to move its teams to coastal B.C. to avoid winter conditions getting in the way of practice.
“The rest of the world has gone very professional in rugby and we made the decision that if Canada is going to keep pace, we need to be training 12 months of the year,” Arnold said. “Langford stepped up and said we could go there, and we’re very excited about it.”
City Centre Park’s turf field is already sanctioned for International Rugby Board games, such as when Team Russia met the B.C. Bears in 2009.
Arnold expects there will be many more international teams visiting Langford in the years to come. Invitations are already in the mail to bring in teams touring January to April 2012.
“We’ve never had a place to hold invitationals in Canada. It’s important for improving the team. We’ll want as many games as possible,” Arnold said. Canadian athletes will begin arriving in January, including 40 men and 25 women from senior and under-20 teams, and their support staff.
They’ll make use of existing training facilities in Eagle Ridge arena, which is being renovated to add a high tech scrummaging zone and clinic for sports medicine.
A new building on Glen Lake Road will become Rugby Canada’s headquarters. Administrative and business offices from Victoria and Toronto will be centralized there.
Initially athletes will be billeted in the community, and eventually they will move into a 70-bed athletes residence that will be incorporated into the Westhills development.
Collectively, the offices, residence and training facility will be called Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence. Langford Mayor Stew Young said details of where exactly everything will go are still being worked out.
“We’ve got lots of space to work with,” Young said, noting that he doesn’t expect any teams will need to be bumped out of Eagle Ridge or turf field facilities to make room for Rugby Canada.
“It’s good for all the athletes to have a variety of sports going on, and especially having elite athletes will bring in sponsorship money to improve the facilities for everyone.”
Currently the Westshore Rebels junior football and Highlanders professional women’s soccer teams use the turf, and there’s a deal with school district to allow future high school students to use it after a new school is built at the Glen Lake site to replace Belmont secondary.
Young said the deal is a great economic opportunity for the city overall. He expects it won’t be long before a big funder such as Rogers wants to take over the naming rights for the Bear Mountain stadium, as it starts to attract larger crowds.
“We built really good sports facilities to attract attention, and we’re starting to see that now,” Young said. “All the athletes and their trainers and everyone who comes to see them play, they’re bringing more people and more business here, which is good for everyone who lives here.”