"We built the stadium not just for soccer," said Mayor Annise Parker of the nearly-complete BBVA Compass Stadium. "We in Houston know how to put on first class sporting events."
Though a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the stadium is slated for May 1, less than two weeks before the inaugural Houston Dynamo game at the club's new home, a different sport caused a stir on Tuesday.
Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Parker admitted to knowing a bit about the sport from her days playing rugby on a Houston club team.
Amid the sounds of construction, a group of diplomats and Houston sports representatives, wearing orange safety vests and hard hats to match the newly-installed stadium seats, announced the first international sporting event hosted at the new stadium: A rugby match between the USA Eagles and the Italian national team on June 23.
Rugby is one of the fastest-growing team sports in the United States, according to Nigel Melville, USA Rugby CEO and president of rugby operations. Italian Consul General Fabrizio Nava echoed this statistic — the sport's popularity is also growing in Italy.
Mike Tolkin, the newly-hired USA head rugby coach, expressed excitement at playing such an important game at a brand new facility. "We want to make it one for [Italy] to remember — for the wrong reasons on their part."
Caught up in the moment, Parker admitted to knowing a bit about the sport from her days playing rugby on a Houston club team. It's a little bit of soccer and a little bit of football, she said — "What's not to like?"
Parker and the others expect the rugby match to be well attended and well supported by Houston sports enthusiasts. Tickets will be available on www.axs.com and www.bbvacompassstadium.com beginning March 12 at 10 a.m.