Not concerned about field conditions

Crew Stadium set to host 38 rugby matches in early June

OBETZ, Ohio — Crew president and general manager
Mark McCullers was hired months before the first match in Crew Stadium
nearly 11 years ago, so he’s just as fervent as the soccer followers are
about protecting the pitch.

So when he heard that organizers
for USA 7’s Rugby Collegiate Championship Invitational wanted Crew
Stadium for its inaugural event McCullers knew what the fans’ response
would be: “Uh, oh. There goes the field.”

“That was my immediate
reaction, too,” McCullers said Wednesday.

The sport --which
will be added to the Summer Olympics in 2016 along with golf-- is a
smaller version of traditional rugby, with seven players compared to 15
and games consist of two seven-minute halves.

It was announced
Tuesday that there will be 38 matches held June 4-6 in Crew Stadium.

“Our grounds crew researched the event,” McCullers said. “The Rugby
7’s doesn’t really impact the field too much. They talked to a lot of
people. Plus the time frame when it’s coming in relative to the World
Cup break, if we have any issues we’ll have time to address them. We
went to them and asked their expert opinion and they gave it the green
light.”

Midfielder Duncan Oughton played some regular rugby
growing up in New Zealand and followed the country All Blacks national
team. He likes the mini version, too.

“It’s a little more
freewheeling. It’s a good time,” he said.

When the Crew hosted a
pair of scrimmages against college teams Friday, the end lines were
moved south to avoid the normal goal boxes that are well worn. The
sidelines were also shifted east.

“Our groundskeepers are pretty
much up to speed where the wear areas are and what the potential
impact is,” McCullers said.

He won’t, however, say for sure
there won’t be remnants of the rugby lines when the Crew hosts D.C.
United on June 26, but he thinks the chances are slim.

“I hate
to guarantee things I don’t know, but we have plenty of time to grow
the grass out and have the field ready for the 26th,” he
said.

The stadium will have its usual complement of high school
football games in the fall as well as the Rock on the Range music
festival May 22-23. That prevented the Crew from bidding for a women’s
national team match. The U.S. will instead play Germany at Cleveland
Browns Stadium on May 22.

“I’d like to get the women’s national
team back in here soon; it’s been awhile since we’ve had them,”
McCullers said.

Crew Stadium was the site for several Women’s
World Cup games in 2003.

There could be one or two more
non-soccer events announced for the stadium, but there won’t be any
friendlies because of the Crew’s participation in the CONCACAF
Champions League.

He also hopes work starts next month on a $5
million project to improve parking conditions at the stadium.

“We’re
going to pave the East Preferred lot,” he said. “We’re going to pave
the South Preferred lots and improve the drainage and grading in as
much space as we can with the money left.”