Rugby championships back in Elkhart

ELKHART — Two dozen of the best high school rugby teams in the U.S. are returning to Elkhart for an unprecedented third year in a row for the Boys High School National Championships this weekend at the Moose Rugby Grounds, 1500 C.R. 6W.

More than 800 athletes, coaches and staff and more than 1,200 fans from as far away as California, Connecticut, Florida and Texas will visit the city, bringing an economic boost to area businesses and further bolstering Elkhart’s reputation as a hotbed for youth rugby, according to the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Boys High School National Championships is the third significant rugby competition in what has turned out to be a busy spring season in Elkhart County. The boys and girls Midwest championships took place on separate weekends in April.

“We are thrilled to have this event return to our backyard,” said Bart Bottorff, director of the Moose Rugby Grounds. “While it’s a considerable amount of work by a select few people, the benefits for the local community and revenue return are significant. We are excited that the coaches from last year’s event voted to come back to our facility.”

The Elkhart County Convention and Visitors Bureau has partnered for years with the Moose Rugby Grounds as the sport has grown in prominence and popularity in the U.S.

“Elkhart County is proud to welcome rugby teams as well as athletes in other sports for events here,” said Jon Hunsberger, executive director of the Elkhart County CVB. “We love sporting events and the contributions they bring to our business partners in the community. As rugby continues growing with an eye toward the U.S. hosting the Men’s and Women’s Rugby World Cups in 2031 and 2033, Elkhart County will be looking for innovative ways to support Bart and his team.”

Competition over the three days are taking place in three divisions (single school, club and tier-2) with games starting at noon each day on the Moose Rugby Grounds’ three fields. Fans pay an entry fee at the gate of $25 for a three-day pass.

The Boys High School National Championships have been staged in cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; and Kansas City, but Bottorff said coaches were eager to return to Elkhart because of the quality of the Moose Rugby Grounds’ fields.