Alumni Engagement

World-class facility a boost for rugby in B.C.

Photo: F Cheung
Photo: F Cheung

Rugby in B.C. has seen a resurgence in recent years, thanks in large part to the addition of a state-of-the-art high-performance facility at UBC. Opened in January 2013, the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre has already had a tremendous impact on student athletes, sports groups and rugby enthusiasts across the province.

Thunderbirds Men’s Rugby Head Coach Rameses Langston says the centre has brought back a sense of excitement about the sport, which has enjoyed a rich history in B.C. and at UBC.

“I’d argue it’s one of the best facilities in North America, maybe even the world,” he says. “It’s about revitalizing the culture of rugby and giving us a place to be proud of.”

Named in honour of UBC Commerce alumnus (’60) Gerald McGavin, a member of the BC Rugby Hall of Fame who generously donated $1 million towards the project, the 5,000 square-foot facility has change rooms, offices, storage space and bleacher seating for 300 spectators. It also offers a much-needed clubhouse lounge for alumni, students and sport groups.

Realizing the vision for a hub for rugby, not only for the campus, but for the entire province has been a true community effort. A group of dedicated UBC alumni and former Thunderbirds Rugby players were instrumental in fundraising efforts for the $2.5 million facility. In addition to McGavin’s transformative gift, local philanthropists and the Department of Athletics and Recreation contributed to the project. As a community partner, the B.C. Rugby Union provided $200,000 as part of a ten-year partnership with UBC.

An important community amenity, the pavilion and fields are used for youth, developmental, grassroots and high-performance programs. The B.C. Rugby Union uses the grounds to prepare provincial representative teams of high-performance athletes aged 13- to 18-years-old for Nationals.

The facility has hosted a number of key national and international matches and tournaments at UBC. The Thunderbirds have also hosted charity touch rugby tournaments for GainLine Africa, an organization that promotes rugby as inspiration for youth in Northern Uganda.

The bleacher seating can accommodate larger crowds, and more students and community members are coming out to catch the action on the field. One of UBC’s longest standing varsity sports, UBC Rugby has seen a return to the level of excellence it is remembered for in recent years, putting in some of its best performances in its 100-year history. The Thunderbirds have won two consecutive World Cup Championships, and last year took the CDI Premier League Champions for the first time in nearly 70 years.

Langston says the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre symbolizes the hard work of coaches, alumni and student athletes to solidify UBC’s rich heritage for rugby.

“We’ve seen a return to the level of rugby that UBC has been known for. We’ve pretty much accomplished everything that we set out to.”