A rugby ball may look like a larger version of a football, but the two sports are far from garnering the same level of recognition in the United States.
However, a local club is looking to make its mark in the Houston sports and rugby scene while cultivating a greater love of the game through the undertaking of a transformative project in Independence Heights.
The Houston Arrows Rugby Football Club, a 50-member Catholic adult team which has utilized the football fields at St. Pius X High School and St. Thomas High School for practices as well as matches over the past three seasons, has begun work on a project for a dedicated field it can call its own. The Arrows are seeking to secure land for their own facility through a fundraising drive called “Into The Breach.”
“A lot of the clubs and cultures in the community didn’t really fit with what I was looking for,” founder Mike Schaad said. “I thought I could find a faith-based group of guys who could hold themselves to a higher standard off the field as well.”
The Northside Columbus Club has offered the Arrows the chance to purchase a 10,000-square-foot portion of its property at 607 E. Whitney St. in Independence Heights, near the intersection of Crosstimbers Road and Interstate 45. The Arrows’ four-phase plan, according to the club’s campaign website, calls for raising $1.5 million over the next five years in order to build the Rugby Formation Center and to begin work on the field in early 2020. To date, the club has raised $50,000 in pledges, with $22,000 collected.
“We’re really looking for a headquarters to build a place where we can grow the sport and build good men,” Schaad said.
The concept of building a Houston-based club first struck Schaad after attending a USA vs. Argentina match at BBVA Compass Stadium in early 2016. A rugby player in college, it renewed his fire for the game. And several months later, the Arrows were born.
But a space issue soon arose. A regulation rugby field is 120 yards long by 77 yards wide, dimensions not readily available at many area facilities.
“It doesn’t fit within a track and doesn’t fit inside a football field unless the track is specifically built to shape around a rugby field,” Schaad said. “Basically every club in Houston is playing on fields narrower than they should be playing on or just making it work.”
During the club’s inaugural 2016-17 season, the Arrows were 1-8. The next season, the record improved to 3-4-1, and the Arrows currently sport a 4-5 record in the 2018-19 campaign. Growing the team, Schaad noted, is reliant upon the ability to offer what many clubs cannot.
“It’s very hard to find space and find organizations that will allow you to use their field, so not having your own space really hinders growth and the ability to build a strong rugby club,” he said.
At the culmination of their project, the Arrows foresee hosting high school tournaments, youth rugby clubs and more at the field and formation center on the Independence Heights property. It would consist of a weight room, two locker rooms and two meeting rooms along with a chapel and social area.
“We really think we can put together a space that encourages growth both on and off the field,” co-founder and team member Bill Pellerin said.
For more information on the Arrows and their campaign, visit ArrowsRugby.com and ArrowsIntoTheBreach.com.