Weekly Feature

2017-08-17 / Front Page

Rugby club to call Tim Russert Park home


South Buffalo Rugby will soon call Tim Russert Park home following usage agreement approval by the West Seneca Town Board on Aug. 7. The agreement is contingent upon review and approval by Town Attorney John Fenz.

Matthew LaLonde, president of the South Buffalo Rugby Football Club, said the club was founded in 1997 and has appeared in the playoffs 11 of the last 12 seasons.

The club has been using Tim Russert Park for matches for the past year and a half, LaLonde said.

“It’s a great field. We had previously bounced around a bit, and so we were looking to formalize a relationship with the town for the club’s use of the field,” he said. “It really fits our needs really, really well.”

LaLonde met with Lauren Masset, the town’s recreation supervisor, and Matthew English, superintendent of highways, sanitation and buildings and grounds, to put together a use agreement.

The club comprises two men’s teams, a women’s team, and boys and girls high school teams.

“We recently started a youth program, which is ages 7 and up to 13,” LaLonde said.

LaLonde said the club has seen significant growth in the five years since it received nonprofit status. He said having a permanent home where the club can invest in the park and field would be beneficial.

No significant changes are planned. Permanent footers for goalposts, construction of a storage shed for field equipment, updated signage and down the road, portable field lighting are among the ideas LaLonde said the club would like to work on.

“Beyond that, helping to keep the field up and in good condition is really all we’re looking to do at this point,” he said.

The club would partner with the town’s Buildings and Grounds Department for field maintenance.

“The park is dedicated [to] Tim Russert,’ and that’s not anything we want to take away,” LaLonde said. “We started in South Buffalo. … We’re very much in tune with that honor.”

“‘Tim Russert Park, Home of South Buffalo Rugby,’ something like that,” said Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan.

Masset said she believes this will be a good opportunity for the neighborhood, and English added that the town will have the final say in all activities and changes organized by the club.

Councilman Eugene Hart posed a concern that games will be damaging to the fields, more so than normal use.

“If the field is damaged beyond reasonable wear and tear, they will forfeit some funds,” Fenz said.

LaLonde added that it is the goal of the club to preserve the field as much as possible, using practice options in the City of Buffalo, which are not suitable for full-scale matches.

The field would be used by the club for 10 games per season — 20 per year — for all five teams. All games are played on Saturdays, and no more than two games per day are on this season’s schedule.

Meegan said that with the renovations already planned for the playground, this agreement creates the opportunity for a family-friendly event.

As for insurance, the club is registered as a member of USA Rugby, insuring the teams and each individual player.

LaLonde said that since rugby was reintroduced to the Olympics, there is more incentive to play, leading to a player saturation in the area and regional growth of the sport.

A typical match will draw up to 100 fans, LaLonde said. And for those who are on the fence about attending a game, the club has an arrangement with the South Buffalo Irish Center for post-match celebrations.

The club’s first game of the season will be at noon, Saturday Aug. 26, at Tim Russert Park, 324 Indian Church Road, against the Buffalo Rugby Club.

For more information on the club, visit southbuffalorugby.org.

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