Huge rugby complex planned for former drive-in theater

January 15, 2013
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A long-vacant drive-in theater just east of Fountain Square soon could be home to the nation’s largest rugby facility.

The Indiana Youth Rugby Foundation has raised $1.2 million for the ambitious project and is seeking another $500,000 to break ground this spring.

Citizens Energy Group last year agreed to hand over the 26-acre parcel next to a former coke plant along Keystone Avenue if Indiana Youth Rugby can line up funding.

The $4.7 million proposal includes five 100-yard-by-70-yard fields—which also could be used for soccer—plus a two-story, 18,000-square-foot community center that would feature banquet areas, a kitchen, two conference rooms and a classroom, a large outdoor deck area, and locker rooms with shower facilities.

(Full story is here. Renderings are on Property Lines.)

Plans also call for a splash park, playground, 1.1-mile exercise trail with workout stations, open-air shelters, and a rain garden educational site.

The facility—dubbed The Indianapolis National Rugby Park—will take the entire space formerly occupied by the Twin Aire Drive-In, which closed 17 years ago.

It’s not the first time a sports complex has been suggested for the site.

In 2010, local not-for-profit Play Ball Indiana proposed a $6 million lighted baseball facility that would host youth and adult baseball and softball leagues and tournaments. It was touted as a key component to revitalizing the area, which is a mix of industrial and residential.

But those plans were scuttled a year later when Play Ball Indiana couldn’t raise enough funds.

Indiana Sports Corp. CEO Allison Melangton is optimistic the rugby project will fly.

“I’m incredibly impressed with their organization and their grass-roots effort to gain support for this project,” she said. “They are reaching out to schools and other youth organizations, and I think that will be key to their success. They have good people behind this project.”

Local attorney Jon Anderson is leading the fundraising efforts. Kohl’s department stores and Kona Jack’s restaurant have been lined up as sponsors, and project leaders have “several important meeting in terms of fundraising in the next few weeks,” Indiana Youth Rugby Executive Director Michelle Leroux said.

If Indiana Youth Rugby is successful, the local operation would be nearly twice as large as the country’s next-biggest facility dedicated to rugby, said officials for USA Rugby, the Colorado-based national sanctioning body for the sport.

Though USA Rugby has no plans to support the project financially, Weaver said the organization has pledged to hold some of the group’s biggest events at the local site.

“We think this facility would be a big economic boon for that area,” said Kurt Weaver, USA Rugby youth development director.

Not everyone is convinced.

Rachel Cooper, a longtime area resident and president of the Southeast Community Organization, thinks something should be built on the drive-in site that would be more useful to community residents—not merely a draw for outsiders.

“There are no recreational facilities out here for our kids, and our kids don’t know what rugby is,” said Cooper, who lives across the street from property. “I agree a development on that site would be a big and needed economic boost for this area. I’m just not convinced this is the right project.”

Locally, Indiana Youth Rugby has 1,800 member players and 200 coaches and has been growing at a 16-percent annual clip. The state has 75 teams stretching from South Bend to Bloomington, with 60 percent of those in central Indiana, Leroux said.

Citizens purchased the property on Keystone north of Prospect Street to create a buffer between its 101-year-old coke plant and nearby residential areas. When the utility closed the plant in 2007, company officials began looking for ways to redevelop both sites.

  • Idiocy
    As a long-time resident of the area, I can honestly say that any development is GOOD development. Rachel Cooper doesn't know up from down and does not live across the street from the proposed development. This woman needs to shut her trap and be happy that someone is interested in developing in the shadow of what is one of the largest brownfields in the city.
  • this has got to be a joke?
    A sports complex on a toxic waste site? They are going to have to scrape the Twin Aire down to bedrock and the surround area soil just to get the contaminated dirt out of there.
    • Head Injuries?
      Rugby is as rough as football, without helmets or pads...I am not sure where this will go, but I am wondering if (given that the NFL is preparing to be sued by hundreds of former players over head trauma) expansion of Rugby, especially for kids, should be put on hold. Development of the site would certainly be a good thing though, provided they can allay the concerns about the hazards of recreational facilities on former brownfields, which would be substantial I would think.
      • living in the hood
        I live just just north of the former drive-in on Rural St. Are they going no further than the old drive-in sight? Will they be taking up the Twin-Aire shopping center, the old school property?
      • As a Rugby Player...
        I think this is a great idea! I play on Indy's Division II women's team, and I believe that this complex will bring, not only economic growth, but a much needed infusion of a sport other than basketball or football to Indy. This rugby complex will be great!
      • From a rugby standpoint..
        There could not be a better time for this to happen currently central indiana has 3 men's and 1 women's rugby team, as well as several local high schools teams. This sport, which will once again be an Olympic sport, is growing at a rapid rate and the development of a complex that could attract international attention can only benefit Indianapolis and further prove the states goals of being an athletic hot spot. Although rugby is still a relatively new sport to the United States, it is third globally falling just short of soccer and cricket. From the sounds of it, this complex is going to w funded completely by private donations and Indianapolis could generate potentially MILLIONS in tourism revenue. Could not be more excited to see the sport that I lie grow and to see Indianapolis once again prove that we are ahead of the curve in regards to sports facilities.
      • After playing for 5 years
        After playing rugby for 5 years, I know from personal experience the amount of rugby related injuries is far less than those from football. It is a great sport for kids and allows many more kids to participate. I would suggest you do some more research before making claims such as putting expansion on kids on hold.
      • its about time
        to say "our kids dont even know what rugby is" comes off as a little ignorant. i didnt know what it was and learned and became obsessed, as im sure many children in the fountain square area will also do. and though the focus is on rugby the fact is a rugby field can be used as many types of sports fields. excitement is an understatement for how the central indiana rugby community feels about this project
        • SECO Who?
          What's the Southeast Community Organization I found an out of date web page with some overpriced stuff for sale but that was it. I've been here in the Square for over a decade and I've never met Ms. Cooper nor have I heard of her involvement in any fundraising activity. Please stop and correct me if I'm out of line here, but bring on the rugby.
        • knowledge
          My kids sure know what soccer is. Same field, small difference. Youth league rugby is rather different than pro rugby to boot.
        • Head Injuries
          Jim, rugby is much safer than football in that regard, because the players do not attack other people with their heads because they believe they are "protected" by a helmet. Rugby players are taught to protect their heads in contact and tackle with their shoulders.
        • Consistent with our Sports Town Strategy
          Rugby? That would be cool.
          ...on Randall Porter's comment, just remember that the Zoo was started from a similar type site. It can be done.

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        Sponsored by
        1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

        2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

        3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

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