History – Pirates Land

Introduction | Men’s Rugby | Junior Rugby | Women’s Rugby

Tours  | Ellerslie Rugby Park | Pirates Land | Honorary Life Members

Volunteers | Special Thanks

With the financial situation at Ellerslie becoming more stable and the member clubs having to bear less responsibility, a common direction that many Edmonton clubs had taken was to invest into their own facilities. Generally this involved the long-term lease of some land and the construction of a facility. So, a growing theme around the Pirates club was to consider the feasibility of our own facility. The dream behind the Pirates’ facility was to provide a permanent home for the club, to enable the camaraderie and friendships developed on the field to grow and to promote a lasting relationship with the club.

Over the winter of 1993/94 a great deal of thought went into just how this could be achieved. Should the land be leased? Where it should be located? How much land should be considered and many other questions were discussed. The availability of leased land was less and what was available did not meet our needs. A number of parcels of land were considered for purchase but they too never met the needs of the club.

Through an acquainted lawyer, a parcel of land was made known to the executive as soon to be publicly available. The City of Edmonton had appropriated the land and subdivided it into two sections. One section was a roughly triangular piece, which would eventually be used as an interchange off the outer ring road. The club had the opportunity to make an offer on the remaining almost 15 acres prior to it being publicly available, much to the dismay of many local landowners.

Suddenly the availability of a potential property was before us. It was expensive, a long way out, undeveloped and un-serviced. But it was large enough, had great soil, relatively flat and was roughly the right size. The club membership met several times. Other positive reasons were realized, there was no other club in the city located in the Northeast, services were available and there was a mental hospital, just up the road (where it has been rumored, some of the members may have come from).

So, the decision was made, we would buy the land, but the club also agreed on one other significant directive in doing so: There would be no funds borrowed to buy or build the facilities – if we didn’t have the money, we would not do it. In 1994, we had enough money in the bank to buy the land for approximately $97,000, and a bit extra to start developing it. This directive set the course for how the fields were to be developed, and what type of building could initially be built.

Once the land was purchased, the real work seemed to start. The $50,000 cost of a sodded, drained and irrigated field was outside the budget – remember the no borrowing directive. Work parties cleared trees for the access road; then, later seeded the fields; erected the goal posts; and planted the spruce trees along the west side of the property. In the meantime, a local contractor was brought in to level the pitches and create an access road and parking lot. Afterwards, a small second hand garage was purchased and placed on a concrete slab to act as the temporary clubhouse. Over the fall and into the winter, the interior of the garage was finished, including heat, electricity and water, most of the work being completed by members of the club. While it was not the most elegant of facilities, it was ours, and on many a night, members could be found sharing a pint and warming themselves by a bonfire.

The first match was played at the Grand Opening of the grounds in 1996. It was an old-boys game against a mixed team made up of players from a number of other clubs. John Cuthbertson (Slut) will be remembered as scoring the inaugural try.

The initial design proposed for the clubhouse consisted of three “pods,” each with a basement. The cost of each pod was estimated to be $250,000.00. Due to lack of funding, the area’s high water table and for practicalities sake, it was changed to the present design.

The facility is 4000 sq. ft. It consists of four changing rooms, male and female showers, physio room, referee’s room/shower, washrooms, utility room, office, kitchen, and boasts of having the capacity to seat 125 people. As well, the patio on the north side of the building is 30 ft by 40 ft.

To date, 3,750 volunteer hours have gone toward the construction of the inside of the clubhouse and the surrounding area. The work, dependant on the availability of funds and volunteers, was mostly completed on weekends during the off-season. Problems finding certain trades within budget constraints and changes to engineering requirements have played a role in the development’s delays. However, thanks to a dedicated core of volunteers, progress has been steady. In addition, the generous donation of time and/or materials by non-club members has been essential in the advancements made. The cost of expenditures to date is $240,000.00 with the cost of completion expected to be $300,000.00 for the clubhouse alone, making the entire property worth well over a half million dollars.

Pirates Land – 2003

Here’s a snapshot of the progress over the last six years:

– pour concrete floor

– erect shell of the building
– trench electrical and gas to the building

– start inside framing and continue throughout the year


– install main electrical and plumbing
– insulate and affix vapor barrier to walls and ceiling
– drywall ceiling and walls
– install driveway gate


– complete pre-wiring
– tape and mud walls and ceiling
– position railway ties along driveway and around parking lot
– position posts and rope along sidewalk
– complete patio
– lay sod around building

– prime walls
– complete locker rooms and showers
– paint and stipple walls
– install doors

– repair and gravel roadway and enlarge parking lot
– put decorative rock in garden areas

– install built-in benches in locker rooms
– put wainscoting on walls

– install light fixtures and fans
– lay flooring
– complete washrooms
– plant shrubs in garden area

While no one person can ever take the credit for something the club does, we can identify a group of people who were instrumental in making it a reality. Peter Clarke did most of the land search and planning the field location. Hugh Conway found the garage and had the services connected. Kevin Brady got the electrical set up for the garage, helped shape the club’s vision and has been the driving force and instrumental in developing the facility.

To say this was a major undertaking would be an understatement. The past, present and future members will be expected to treat the facility with the same care and respect with which it was built, to ensure the Pirates’ legacy lives on.