Skip to main content

'Cheers to all the blood, sweat and tears': Players say goodbye to Ellerslie rugby park


After years of financial deficits, the Ellerslie rugby park is winding down for its last season as ownership prepares to sell. But, for some of the park’s loyal members, it’s a bittersweet goodbye.

The park was created in the 1970s as a regional rugby hub, with space to host large meets - something Graeme Dawes says made it a destination for international teams looking to play in the city.

Dawes has been a board member of the park for 20 years, and he said it’s been amazing to see the sport gain popularity over the years, even as the growth in members led to new clubhouses being built around Edmonton, essentially putting the park out of business.

“I really do think the growth of the sport is due to the fact that we had such a great facility,” Dawes said, adding the sport itself has only benefitted from growing outward into new spaces in the city.

“The game is now out in the communities and more people are going to see the sport, but the detriment is that we’re losing the home base that we all played on for many years.”

A 2020 report shows the rugby park only turned a profit one year since 2010, and loses around $40,000 a year on average. Dawes said it’s been difficult to try and create new revenue streams without the money to invest into maintaining and repairing the aging facilities.

“We only get four or five good months for outdoor sports, then how do you bring in that revenue stream that keeps paying the bills over the winter months as well.”

Park ownership sold four acres of land in 2011 to help renovate. Now they have decided to sell the rest and they’re asking for at least $6.5 million, all of which will go back into the game and supporting the sport’s next growth spurt.

“As we get older and the sport grows, we’ve got to grow and accommodate that growth within the communities of the game,” Dawes said.

“Personally, I think it’s a great step for the sport. The finances from the sale are all going to be put into trust and into the clubs. And that’s going to help the sport long since we’re six-foot under.”

The money from the sale will go to funding rugby in the city for clubs and schools, said Dawes, and help set the founding clubs up for three or four generations of players to enjoy.

For those wanting to go play a last game, or even just come say goodbye to the park and players, Dawes said there will be a last-hurrah weekend of rugby in the park in the first week of October. Everyone is welcome, he added, and the celebrations aren’t just for members.

“It’s just a fun weekend of rugby to say goodbye to the park. You know, we can all go out there and have a drink at centre field and cheers to all the blood, sweat and tears that we’ve left on that field.”

With files from Jeremy Thompson. Top Stories

Stay Connected