ST. GEORGE – The City Council gave verbal approval Thursday for a potential agreement with the Utah Youth Rugby’s girls division expanding use of the Dixie Sunbowl to allow for the girls rugby matches.
Rugby is one of the nation’s fastest growing sports in the country, and possibly the fastest growing sport in Utah, said Boyd Kenenwisher, head coach of the girl’s Thunder Rugby Club team based out of Desert Hills High School.
“Utah happens to be the hub of rugby activity in the country,” Boyd Kenenwisher said. “We’re gaining a lot of notice and attention from the national organizations.”
St. George also happens to have one of the best programs in the state in the Snow Canyon Rugby Club, he said.
Though a highly popular and growing sport, rugby itself is not an official high school-sanctioned sport. Because of this, rugby teams tend to be formed through school clubs. Some club teams contain members from various schools as well.
Another issue with the sport not being officially sanctioned is that the club teams don’t always have access to school sports fields, as they already have dedicated use to sanctioned sports programs. Because of this, the teams and organization as a whole are looking for places to practice and hold matches.
Matt Kanenwisher, Boyd Kanenwisher’s brother, is the girls team coordinator for Utah Youth Rugby and told the council the Dixie Sun Bowl is a perfect spot for girls rugby. He said the girls teams would have the least impact on the facility and that the organization would pay for field use, as well as put money toward facility improvements via fundraisers.
Councilwoman Michele Randall asked Matt Kanenwisher where the rugby teams had been playing up to now.
“Wherever we can,” Matt Kanenwisher said.
Mayor Jon Pike said the city could enter into an agreement with Utah Youth Rugby similar to the one struck with the Zion Lions semipro football team’s use of the Sun Bowl.
“We want to use it, that’s what it’s there for,” Pike said. The City Council was generally in favor of pursuing an agreement of some sort. Pike added that many different groups have begun to ask to use the Sunbowl since the city put a proverbial “we’re open” sign over it.
The Sunbowl would be used by the area’s three girls rugby teams with the exception of the varsity teams, and possibly use the field 12-15 days out of the year.
One of the area girls rugby teams has already played at the Sunbowl, with another match slated for Friday.
Utah Youth Rugby is a nonprofit organization consisting of between 70-80 statewide.
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