The start of a dream… Finally, after years of frustration, cancellations, last minute reassignment of playing fields, etc., the Edmonton Rugby Union and the six founding clubs formed a committee to oversee the planning and development of a stand-alone rugby facility. Dedicated and focused, a strong team gathered to carefully plan and execute the dream of all the rugby players in Edmonton. Gordon King and Con Dragu from the Pirates, Norm Suvan and John Rockcliff from the Tigers, Dave Graham and Ieuan Evans of the Clansmen, Roger Cowper and Lynn Davies of the Druids, together with Graham Young and Stuart Cowan from the Leprechauns and John O’Hanley (Buffalo) from the Golden Bears (Nor’westers) formed the nucleus of a team of many, many volunteers from all of the clubs.
Originally, a number of Charter Life Memberships at $1,000 each were sold to raise money to purchase the land. Of the about 250 sold, thirty Pirates stepped forward to purchase, making the Pirates the leaders in this endeavor.
Norm Suvan of the Tigers along with others negotiated and masterfully finalized the purchase of 30 acres of land just south of the city. Each club was then assigned various functions to complete. The Pirates main job was field development under the guidance of Gordon King with his expertise in farming and mechanical prowess. Dave Metcalf headed the team assigned to look after the goal posts. Joe Normandeau and Reg Monteyne headed the crew to erect the posts with the help of the operator of the McGregor telephone auger truck. Tree planting around the fields was organized by Ieuan Evans of the Clansmen with the bulk of the labor done by Gordon King and the Pirates. Mostly Roger Cowper and his crew from the Druids constructed a work shed/garage. The Tigers helped with the concrete floor slab. Dave Metcalf again headed a crew to erect a covering on an area designated for “social activity,” using used drill pipe stems and a green and white-stripped canvas tarpaulin donated by Alta-West Construction.
After phase one was complete, a second phase was started. Molson House was the scene of many meetings. Multiple designs were proposed and finally a decision was made. Construction began on the strength of some City of Edmonton grants, in lieu of the rugby clubs agreeing that 10% of the future use of the fields would be for public sports and that the Pirates would not proceed with protecting our deeded interest in what is now Rollie Miles Athletic Grounds. Way back in time, Sam Wright had attended to a legitimate caveat placed on the old “Scona Fields” effectively dedicating the land for the perpetual use of rugby football in Edmonton. Numerous federal and matching provincial grants enabled construction to proceed.
Each club understood and undertook to raise equal funds for the daily operations and maintenance of the grounds. Joe Normandeau, the youngest member, at that time, of the Knights of Columbus, an Archbishop MacDonald graduate and Connor Kennedy recruit, brought a proposal to the club to participate in half a slot at the Knights of Columbus Bingo ~ this is how it all began. The Pirates raised funds by operating 87 bingo nights, every 4th Sunday at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Jasper Avenue. Appropriate relaxation followed at Con Dragu’s small suite, where many stories were told.
The Pirates can well be proud of our efforts at developing this facility ~ Ellerslie Rugby Park ~ Home of Edmonton Rugby.