by Nigel Melville
Nigel Melville Direct
On Tuesday last week I was in Houston to announce that the Eagles Tier 1 test match against Italy on June 23rd will be played at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The Stadium will open in May this year and will be home to the Houston Dynamo’s Major League Soccer side. Ever since I arrived in the USA, 5 years ago, the Texas Rugby Community have consistently expressed their desire to hold another test match in Houston. In 2001, the Eagles hosted South Africa at the Robertson Stadium in Houston, according to reports, the crowd that day was between 12,000 and 20,000 fans!
Four years ago, I met Janis Schmees, Executive Director of the Harris County Sports Authority. Janis showed me the plans to build a 22,000 seater soccer stadium in the City that could also be used for rugby. Having run events in similar facilities I outlined a few issues that we face when using soccer stadiums, such as, short in-goal areas, limited run-off down the touchlines and sleeves in the ground to support goal posts!
I remember the challenges we faced with posts when we played Munster at Toyota Park in Chicago. The ground staff wouldn’t put sleeves in the ground, we had to build posts from plastic piping purchased from Home Depot and counterbalanced to make them stay upright! A year later I had breakfast with the Mayor of Bridgeview to plead for post sleeves ahead of our game against Wales – fortunately he gave me his support!
Janis Scmees went one step further, rugby became a part of the planning committee and local rugby stalwarts such as Paul Mabry and Dave McPhail from the Texas Rugby Union provided field sizes during the planning stages, along with post sleeve specifications.
Interestingly, as the Stadium took shape, I met with Jamey Rootes, CEO of the Texans Football Franchise and head of their marketing arm, the Lone Star Entertainment Group. Jamey is a progressive guy, introduced me to his team and outlined their interest in Rugby. Of course, their goal is for Rugby in the Reliant Stadium, a fantastic stadium, but a little big for our needs this year against Italy!
Talks continued, a local organizing committee was created and the game was announced. This is an exciting time for USA Rugby, it is the first time to my knowledge that a City has really embraced the game of rugby in this way. The Dynamo’s and the Texan’s working with the Sports Authority, local Rugby Union and Texas Youth Rugby to promote a successful event has created a real buzz in Texas. Adding to the momentum for the game, Mayor Parker joined us at our press launch and proudly announced that she was a former rugby player (back-row), and couldn’t wait to get her hands on the ball and show me how to pass the ball – that certainly made a great story for the attending media.
New Eagles Coach, Mike Tolkin also joined us for the press conference and spoke about his excitement of bringing the Eagles to Houston this summer. The stage is set, the weekend will be a memorable rugby event for those who attend, and tickets will be going on sale next week. If you are interested in getting ahead of the game CLICK HERE for pre-sale ticket details!
One benefit of working with the City and its sports franchises is their access to a wider sports market than the rugby community. On Tuesday night, the Sports Authority invited me to join them at the Houston Rodeo, an amazing event that included me riding a horse in the opening parade, a chance to watch bull riding and bucking broncos followed by an Enrique Iglasias concert in front of a capacity 85,000 crowd….maybe we should book him for our half time show in June!!
Thanks to everyone for working so hard to make this happen, we look forward to making this event a huge success in June.
With an impressive resume as player, coach and administrator, Nigel David Melville took over as CEO and President of Rugby Operations of USA Rugby, the National Governing Body of the sport in America, in 2006. In addition to his full time job promoting the sport in the U.S., Melville has launched his own blog, Nigel Melville Direct, to further the discussion and his passion for what it will take to make the U.S. a great rugby playing nation.
CLICK HERE to read more on Nigel Melville
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