Small league big money.
Rugby has never made an impression on the American
sporting public. But that does not mean that rugby organizers have not learned
sports owners’ lessons when it comes to stadium building. James Kennedy, the
owner of the Rugby United of New York of Major League Rugby, is looking at
building a facility for his team in Staten Island the least populated of New
York City’s five boroughs. It is also the most difficult borough to access as
there are two ways of getting onto the island. There are bridges from Brooklyn
and New Jersey that go to Staten Island along with the Staten Island Ferry. The
New York Yankees low level, short season rookie league affiliate in Staten
Island plays at a stadium that is near the ferry terminal. Kennedy sees an
opportunity to build a small stadium just for rugby and is hoping that the New
York City Economic Development Corporation is on board with his plan. Kennedy
needs money for the stadium and has turned to the city agency to find money for
the rugby stadium.
Kennedy is offering the city agency a deal. “We’re asking the EDC to contribute a lot but we see the economic impact in the tens of millions of dollars a year, which will build over time.” Kennedy’s stadium is not going to have many seats which means there will not be too many people coming to games and that might be a problem projecting a stadium’s real economic impact. Major League Rugby has twelve teams and only one team, Austin, plays in a stadium with more than 10,000 seats. Kennedy’s New York franchise played in Brooklyn in 2019 in the Coney Island stadium that houses the New York Mets minor league short season rookie league affiliate. Kennedy’s team will play a game in Buffalo and plans New Jersey and Brooklyn home games in 2020.