Austin Elite Rugby has a new home.
Entering its second season in Major League Rugby, the franchise announced on Thursday that it has partnered with the Round Rock Express to play six 2019 regular season game at Dell Diamond.
“This is the next step,” Austin Elite President/Owner Richard Osborn said. “The fact that we’re starting our second season gives us a lot more credibility than being just a one-off, one-year team. There is a lot of support form the rugby community across the country and the world.”
The 2019 season begins on Jan. 26 when the Houston SaberCats come to town. The MLR season will span 19 weeks with the venues for the remaining two home games yet to be announced.
Austin Elite Rugby called the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex its home last year, the inaugural season for the league.
With a capacity of more than 11,000, Dell Diamond is far and away the largest stadium in the league. And the team can boast 30 suites in addition to the regular admission.
Osborn said there is no agreement to play at Dell Dimond beyond this season, but the team hopes to continue playing there in the future.
“Rugby has been growing in the United States for a long time,” Osborn said. “Amateur rugby has been developing a lot and I think it was ready for a professional league to step in and continue growing the game and give the guys a chance to play full time.”
Dell Diamond has hosted minor league baseball since it was opened in 2000, but Ryan Sanders Baseball and the City of Round Rock haven’t been afraid to branch out to host other sports, concerts and other unique events.
Liga MX has hosted numerous friendlies at the stadium, the most recent one between Mexican giants Tigres and Chivas attracting more than 13,000 fans. AMC drama “Fear the Walking Dead” took over the field in 2017 and legendary rapper Snoop Dogg will perform there on Dec. 2.
This also won’t be the first time Dell Diamond hosts rugby after it welcomed the Men’s Eagles for a second international test rugby match against Brazil on Feb. 11, 2017.
“Baseball is our bread and butter and has been for 19 years and will continue to be,” Express General Manager Tim Jackson said. “We also know this is an incredible facility that the City of Round Rock partners with us on and we can use it year round. We feel like it’s one of the premier even facilities in Central Texas. This is a chance to showcase our facility to some new fans and we’re excited about it.”
Texas, and Central Texas in particular, has a long history of good ruby teams. There are two MLR teams and five amateur teams in the state, including the Austin Huns, which won the U.S. Division 1 National Championship in 2017.
Austin Elite Rugby finished 5th in its first season and failed to make the playoffs. The team won three of its four home games.
“Rugby has been growing, and the other countries around the world have been good for years have been waiting for America to wake up,” Osborn said. “I think the sleeping giant is stirring.”