Rugby Canada and the Glasgow Warriors say the city-maintained field isn’t safe to play on; Saturday’s game is moved to Spryfield’s Grave-Oakley Memorial Park

Rugby Canada's Rick Blevins.
Rugby Canada’s Rick Blevins.
Rugby Canada’s Rick Blevins.

Rugby took centre stage at a Halifax council meeting in June, when, citing the potential economic impact from thousands of spectators and a world-wide television audience, councillors approved $30,000 in support of a Rugby Canada match against the Glasgow (Scotland) Warriors. Deemed the “Battle for New Scotland,” the match also received $70,000 in support from the province.

The match is wrapped in much fanfare and celebratory events are scheduled through the next few days. Friday afternoon, a “Giv’r” beer tent will be set up on the Wanderers Grounds, and a street fair takes over Argyle Street in the evening. A “Tailgate Party” is planned for Argyle Street from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, and the tipsy revellers would presumably walk over to watch the 3pm match at the Wanderers Grounds.

But officials with Rugby Canada and the Glasgow Warriors have deemed the playing field unsafe and refuse to play on it, confirms a spokesperson for Sports & Entertainment Atlantic, the event management firm that is producing the game at a cost of $90,000.

So now the tipsy revellers will have to somehow make their way to the Grave-Oakley Memorial Park in Spryfeld, where the match has been moved to.

A source tells the Examiner that the Wanderers Ground playing field is a mess, waterlogged and full of rocks.

“This is some seriously embarrassing bush league kind of stuff,” says the source. “I can’t see how you could get 5,000 seats, and a beer garden, and a TV broadcast setup, and changing facilities, and transportation infrastructure set up in 72 hours with no advance planning. Not to mention the Argyle Street tie-in.”

The Examiner has requested comment from the city, and will update this post when it is received.

Update, 2:07pm:

City spokesperson Jennifer Stairs has sent the Examiner the following statement:

As you know, the municipality received an application earlier this year for grant funding for this event. That request did not include specifics on field conditions; however, we understand how important it is for event organizers to have access to quality venues.

The Wanderers Grounds is a public recreational field, not a purpose-built rugby pitch, which organizers were aware of when they approached the city and requested access to this site. The conditions of the Wanderers Grounds are regularly maintained to meet the recreational needs of our residents.

In additional to regular maintenance, the municipality has worked diligently since June with the event organizers and turf experts to get the field ready for this event. That includes aerating, topdressing, fertilizing, sodding and irrigating the field. On top of that, the city agreed to close the facility two weeks prior to the event to minimize any impact from recreational field use. Unfortunately, despite all those efforts, the turf has not responded as we’d hoped and the organizers have determined the site doesn’t meet the heightened safety standards of these elite athletes.

Upon being advised by the event organizers that relocation was necessary, the municipality worked to secure another site – Graves Oakley field in Spryfield. Right now our focus is on ensuring that field is ready for play on Saturday. Graves Oakley has been used this season for both local and provincial rugby play with no issues, so we’re hopeful the new site will make for a safe and enjoyable event for all involved. The municipality is also discussing transit options and other event logistics with the event organizers but ultimately these are matters to be addressed by those responsible for the event.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Our fields are terrible.
    The best fields are outside of HRM. Both ball and soccer/rugby.
    We used to have good fields but it’s just anything thing that went downhill once HRM was in charge of all fields. Communities took pride in their fields and looked after them – often free of charge.
    Now all fields are contracted out to businesses who really have no connection to the fields except to get paid and spend as little as possible while doing so.
    It’s really too bad.
    Whenever we play outside of HRM, It is always so nice to play on the nice fields.

  2. “The conditions of the Wanderers Grounds are regularly maintained to meet the recreational needs of our residents.”

    That about sums it up. And it’s not that city parks and rec staff can’t do a good job – the rehabilitation of the Seymore Hankey ball diamond is a good example – but that the ongoing maintenance is minimal.

  3. good heavens – where does this money go to? still begging (20 years) for a few more sexual assault counsellors in this province…