National rugby tournament brining economic boost to Michiana - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

National rugby tournament brining economic boost to Michiana

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One of the biggest high school sports tournaments in the country started Thursday in Michiana and it may be the last sport you'd ever expect.

The United States High School Rugby Tournament is underway in Elkhart. The city was selected to host the tournament because of the nationally renowned Elkhart Moose Lodge Rugby Grounds.

"You know we've been doing this for a number of years now and this is the best grass we've had to play on in 5 to 6 years," said Brandon Kean, a rugby coach for a Charlotte, NC based team.

Kean and his Charlotte Catholic Rugby team say they had no problem making the almost 12 hour drive from North Carolina because it means playing on what he considers the best fields in the country.

He's not the only Rugby Coach who feels that way. Many consider the Elkhart Moose Lodge Rugby Grounds the "Mecca" of high school rugby.

"I think it's just a great atmosphere out [at the rugby grounds]," said Kean. "Rugby fans love to cheer for whatever team happens to be on the field. Everybody is spirited. It's a great community event."

And it is great for the Michiana community in more ways than one. Not only can fans watch the best teams from across the country square off, but having the tournament in Elkhart helps boost the economy.

"[The visiting teams] are spending big money here this weekend in our backyard," said tournament organizer and Penn Rugby coach Bart Battorff. "Hotels, meals, that type of thing."

Tournament organizers expect the event to bring in at least $500,000 to the Michiana this weekend. The visiting 24 teams seem to be getting their money's worth.

"The people hosting this year have been phenomenal," said Peter Baggetta, a rugby coach from Washington D.C.. "Like helping out with where to go out and get this, here's where you need to go buy this or that. I mean the hosts, not just the rugby people, but the local people here have been fantastic."

Bottorf says he's enjoying playing host this weekend too, because not only is he helping boost the local economy, but it gives his team some home field advantage.

"I'm pretty excited to do this for the community, do this for the game. And yeah try to win the darn thing for the Penn team too," said Bottorf.

Anybody who wants to go to the tournament can buy weekend passes at the door for $15 a piece.

Penn Rugby Club is currently ranked as the fourth best school team in the country. They play Gonzaga, a team from Washington D.C., Friday afternoon.

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