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Rugby United New York in talks to build stadium in Staten Island

(Credit: Rugby United New York)

Major League Rugby franchise Rugby United New York (RUNY) is looking to build a permanent rugby-specific stadium in Staten Island, team majority owner James Kennedy has told SportBusiness.

According to Kennedy, RUNY is in conversations with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) – the city’s primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs – about the project.

The team is hoping that the NYEDC will help fund the facility, with the belief that it will lead to significantly increased economic activity in the borough.

“It’s gone to the higher-level meeting stage but we’re working on other facility options as well, just in case. We’re chasing multiple options,” Kennedy said. “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.”

Despite Kennedy’s claims, RUNY is not in any advanced discussions with the NYEDC on this issue.

Having left MCU Park – the home of Minor League Baseball’s Brooklyn Cyclones – at the end of their inaugural season in 2019, RUNY will play in multiple venues in the 2020 season. This includes a planned home game in Buffalo, in upstate New York, against the nearby Toronto Arrows, and possibly some games at MCU Park as well as in New Jersey.

“It will be a bit of a roadshow,” Kennedy says. “The players are behind it.”

The team’s opening game next season, SportBusiness can reveal, will be part of a triple-header in Las Vegas. The full MLR schedule will be released September 23.

Following the success of the USA Sevens tournament at the Sam Boyd Stadium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, MLR is believed to be considering Las Vegas as a possible expansion site going forward.

RUNY will also soon announce a new training facility for the squad, which will be done in partnership with a local university.

On the commercial front, RUNY recently signed a partnership with UNFPA, the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency. This relationship began with a demonstration game of touch rugby at the United Nations’ New York headquarters on September 19.

Going forward, UNFPA will become a sleeve sponsor of the team and RUNY staff members will go on a trip to Kenya with the agency in November to help set up a sports program for a refugee camp. RUNY’s equipment partner Gilbert will provide rugby balls and jerseys for this initiative.

Meanwhile, RUNY is in talks with three blue-chip companies for a front-of-jersey sponsorship. The team is asking for $1m a year, up from around $300,000 in 2019, the entire kit sponsorship.

Read more: MLR takes slow and steady approach in attempt to crack US market