Is becoming the rugby capital of the United States
Hendersonville has an award-winning rugby complex that has quickly established the town as a regional and national destination for this niche sport.
The public-private partnership of the Hendersonville Parks Department and Sumner County Rugby Club features two world-class irrigated fields side-by-side.
The complex on Avant Lane is a venue for area college and high school games and tournaments and is already a draw for top-level rugby outside of Tennessee.
“He’s an asset to the town and a great deal to our organization and the rugby community at large,” said Sumner County Rugby Club Chairman Brian Silkwood. “It’s been awesome all the way.”
The Hendersonville Rugby Complex recently won the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association 2021 New Facility Award for a budget of $500,000 or less.
Sumner County Rugby Club uses the complex for its youth program which can range from 125 to 200 high school 7 year olds.
The complex has been used for University of Tennessee and University of Memphis showcases and events, such as the Tennessee State Rugby Tournament.
In January, USA Rugby South – which includes Sumner County Rugby Club alumnus Colby Pearl – and selected Pacific Northwest teams were scheduled.
Several universities contacted Silkwood to play in Hendersonville.
The popular annual rugby festival Nash Bash will hold its youth division game in Hendersonville from April 8-10, which Silkwood says will attract around 30 teams.
“We have colleges, we have clubs, we have high schools that come from far and wide to come here,” Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary said at a recent meeting of the council of mayors and aldermen. “And they spend the night and they spend money.”
The ground at the Hendersonville Rugby Complex was donated through Durham Farms community development.
Sumner County Rugby Club has invested approximately $250,000 in the rugby complex and field through sponsorships, donations and labour, Silkwood said.
Hendersonville invested about $100,000 in funds and manpower, according to parks superintendent Andy Gilley.
The Rotary Club of Hendersonville also donated 50 trees to be planted around the complex. The complex has land for future concession and pavilion areas.
Bathrooms, concessions and lighting are planned in subsequent phases for the rugby complex, Silkwood said.
The city maintains the park.
The complex can be used for other sports in Hendersonville, such as soccer and the city’s flag football program. Community events like movie nights in the park could also take place at the resort.
Durham Farms donated additional land, which Gilley estimates at around 40 acres. The ground adjoins the rugby complex, separated by a stream. Soccer and football pitches are being considered as initial talks have begun development, Gilley said.
“The most important thing is access; we will have to build a bridge,” Gilley said.
Different sources of federal funding, including U.S. bailout funds, will be explored to determine what can be used to help fund additional land development, Gilley said.
Contact Andy Humbles at [email protected] or 615-726-5939 and on Twitter @AndyHumbles.