Council approves collaboration for improvements to rugby, football field at Frank Hall Park

Published 6:23 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

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The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved authorizing the city manager to work with the Albert Lea Youth Football, Grizzlies Football Club and youth rugby program for improvements at the practice field at Frank Hall Park.

Ron Eriksmoen, who started the rugby club in 2017 with his wife, Brittany, and who are now both on the Minnesota Youth Rugby Executive Committee, said he has worked with the Parks and Recreation Department the last couple years on a space for the rugby program that it can call home.

He said there are about 50 youth playing rugby in Albert Lea, and both the girls and boys programs have performed well. He said the sport teaches many life lessons, including being tough and thinking on your feet.

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The club would like to make some improvements to the field and put two 40-foot-tall storage containers at the site for equipment, noting currently the rugby and Grizzlies program have to transport equipment back and forth. They also would like to eventually add a press box and make it more of a venue.

They plan to get quality containers and would paint them and highlight sponsors on them as well.

Eriksmoen said the field would be their rugby practice home and they would like to host some games out there, though they will still host some games at Hammer Complex as well.

He said April 12 was their opener, and they hosted a boys and girls high school match and had at least 250 people in the stands watching and three teams from out of town.

On Saturday they hosted a middle school jamboree for the first time in Albert Lea, which had six teams from out of town, including a team from Fargo that spent the night one night.

He said it is a sport that is growing, and while many of the programs are in the Twin Cities area, they always get asked what they are doing in Albert Lea because of the success of the program here.

“If you put a venue like that together that has some space, especially when it’s all done — that’s where teams will want to come play,” he said. “We have the opportunity here in Albert lea to have a venue that is very rugby friendly  … because not all are. That absolutely will attract people to it.”

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said he thought the field was a good use of space and commended the project, noting if the city can help more people in the community with projects like this, the better off the city would be.

Fourth Ward Councilor Sherri Rasmussen said she had gone by the field a few nights before and was pleased with all of the activity she saw happening there.

“It’s great to have some place else for our kids to go that’s organized, that teaches discipline, and teamwork and sportsmanship, so I think this is fantastic and I thank you guys,” she said.

Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland thanked Eriksmoen for being the guinea pig for the Parks and Recreation new application for community projects and said he thought the process worked well.

The storage containers will be allowed under an updated city ordinance that the council is considering.

All of the improvements will be paid for by the groups.