The country’s top rugby players will soon be training year-round at City Centre Park and Bear Mountain Stadium.
Langford has partnered with Rugby Canada to become the national headquarters for the national men’s and women’s rugby teams as they prepare for world and Olympic competition.
Trevor Arnold, director of rugby based out of Rugby Canada’s Victoria office, said the organization was looking to move its teams to coastal B.C. to avoid winter conditions getting in the way of practice.
“The rest of the world has gone very professional in rugby and we made the decision that if Canada is going to keep pace, we need to be training 12 months of the year,” Arnold said. “Langford stepped up and said we could go there, and we’re very excited about it.”
Currently a large portion of the Canadian men’s and women’s national rosters play in the B.C. premier league, the country’s top club competition and suit up for the Victoria-based men’s and women’s teams to gain exposure while developing their skills.
City Centre Park’s turf field is already sanctioned for International Rugby Board games, such as when Team Russia met the B.C. Bears in 2009. Arnold expects there will be many more international teams visiting Langford in the years to come. Invitations are already in the mail to bring in teams touring January 2012.
“We’ve never had a place to hold invitationals in Canada. It’s important for improving the team. We’ll want as many games as possible,” Arnold said.
Athletes begin arriving in January with 40 men and 25 women from senior and under-20 teams. They’ll make use of existing training facilities in Eagle Ridge arena, which is being renovated to add a high-tech scrummaging zone and a clinic for sports medicine.
A new building on Glen Lake Road will become Rugby Canada’s headquarters. Administrative and business offices from Victoria and Toronto will centralize there. Initially athletes will be billeted in the community, and eventually they will move into a 70-bed athletes’ residence that will be incorporated into the Westhills development.
Collectively, the offices, residence and training facility will be called Canadian Rugby Centre of Excellence.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said details of where exactly everything will go are still being worked out.
Currently Rebels junior football and Highlanders professional women’s soccer teams use the turf, and there’s a deal with the school district to allow future high school students to use it after a new school is built at the Glen Lake site to replace Belmont secondary.