It’s really hard to find two closer sports than rugby and football.
In fact, football grew out of rugby, so it only makes sense that the Westman Youth Football Association and the Brandon Barbarians rugby club would form a partnership when one organization was in trouble. That’s exactly what happened this year.
I continue my series of looking at sporting facilities in the city today with a look at what’s happening for rugby and football fields.
Since it was founded, youth football has kind of been a nomadic organization, moving from school field to school field. It recently settled at Crocus Plains, but was forced from there this year as that field has been beaten up so badly that it’s being repaired and a new crown is being installed.
Needing a place for its kids to play, especially with Boyd Stadium still months away, WYFA president Blaine Moroz contacted the Barbarians to see if young football players could use John Reilly Field. The Barbarians didn’t even think before saying yes, forging a solid partnership between the two.
"Overall we wanted to be a good community member," said Barbarians president Brent Allum. "We feel like youth sports are very important. While we highly encourage everyone possible to try out rugby, we want people playing a plethora of different sports and anything that gets kids involved is fantastic.
"Westman Youth Football is a very, very popular program. It’s run by excellent people who are very easy to work with and we’re happy to help out that youth sports community in any way possible."
For years, the rugby pitches, located just west of Andrews Field, have been in immaculate condition. They are always well cared for and look spectacular whenever Barbarian or high school rugby games are played on them. Allum admits having football on them will add a little more wear and tear, but figures it’s worthwhile to put in a little extra work into the fields if it allows kids to play football.
Although all the details of the deal between the organizations haven’t been worked out, Moroz said WYFA will do a lot for the rugby community. WYFA will be promoting rugby a little bit this year and Moroz said members of the organization are willing to help out with field maintenance as a big thank you. They’re even willing to aid in improving the rugby complex by helping to erect a new facility that will include change rooms, a restaurant and deck, which Allum said will be built this summer.
"We’ve offered anything we can help to promote and grow the sport (of rugby)," Moroz said. "I heard this weekend they’re working on a clubhouse and if we can step up and help with that, by all means we’ll be all over that one."
Allum believes the clubhouse will be a massive improvement for the rugby community. Currently, there are two trailers at the fields, one that’s used as a change room and another as a canteen with a barbecue just outside. Fans can either stand on a deck near the trailers or sit on bleachers to watch games.
The new facility will allow spectators to watch games from inside, potentially watching other rugby or sporting events on TVs inside as well, if they don’t like the bleachers. The deck will be there for people who want to watch while enjoying the weather.
"A clubhouse is the single largest factor in building a community for our rugby club, both getting people more interested and coming down to watch games and allow us to have different activities," Allum said.
"We could start throwing more tournaments together," he continued. "There’s a very strong high-performance academy that just started running in Brandon last year. It would be a better facility for them to invite people from a wider range.
"We also have another company interested in putting on developmental rugby sessions that would require a little more structure built around the field to have these things. It will allow us to really expand into what we can offer here and start reaching beyond just Manitoba for people who would want to come here to host something."
The Barbarians aren’t even fundraising for it yet. They’ve reached an advertising and promotion deal to help get the building up.
If Moroz has his way, WYFA athletes won’t have to use the proposed clubhouse as it will have new fields ready by the fall or next spring. The organization has begun fundraising for Boyd Stadium, the future home of WYFA. Upon total completion, the facility will have a Canadian and American-sized field, due to space and safety concerns, that will be lit as well as change rooms and a canteen of its own. It’s located near Simplot Millennium Park.
Ideally, Moroz would like to have the first two phases — installation of the two fields with irrigation and goal posts as well as field lighting, a scoreboard and building the parking lot — completed by the fall. The cost of the fields is $235,000 while the cost of the parking lot, scoreboard and lighting is around $224,000.
It’s a lot of money, but Moroz hopes the community will support the project.
"We are very optimistic we can do it," he said of raising the $459,000 this year. "We’ve seen what the community has done in the past for projects like the Ashley Neufeld and how they’ve stepped up when community groups in Westman need help like this. We’re hoping the community keeps on with helping projects and making sure the kids have nice, safe fields to play on."
WYFA is currently talking to local businesses about a five-year advertising agreement for a $5,000 donation. They’ll get a four-foot by eight-foot sign at the stadium for the money.
People may donate sod at the cost of $10 per yard as well. Donations over $50 are tax deductible. For more information on how to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a third phase that includes the clubhouse, field equipment, picnic/rest areas, signage, fencing and final landscaping that is estimated to cost $421,000.
Moroz isn’t looking too far ahead on the project though.
"We just want to make sure we secure the funds we need to fully complete the first phase before we move to the second," he said. "We don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse on this project because we just start falling behind like that. How fast the dollars come pouring in determines how fast we complete this project."
WYFA currently has more than $50,000 in its account to help pay for the project as well.
It’s also working with Brandon Minor Baseball to make sure practice and game times for the same age group don’t overlap for football and baseball, allowing kids to play both sports.
Like the Barbarians, having a football facility can open up a ton of doors for the sport in the community.
Fewer public fields will have to be used in the future and bigger events, like the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp, may come to the city as well.
There’s a lot of work ahead for both the rugby and football organizations, but the pay offs can be huge for both, just like the Westman Youth Football Association working with other groups in the community this year and in the future will benefit sports in general in the area.