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Move to Emerald Park allows Steamboat Rugby’s Cowpie Classic to continue for 50th year

The event was in question because Ski Town Park will be unavailable this summer during construction of an irrigation project.

Steamboat Rugby’s annual Cowpie Classic tournament can continue for a 50th year after Steamboat Springs City Council passed an ordinance on first reading Tuesday allowing the event to move to Emerald Park this year.

The golden edition of the tournament was in question because its usual location — Ski Town Park — will be closed this summer as the city updates irrigation systems. Emerald Park was available but has long had a restriction that prevented any organized adult use of the park.

The ordinance passed Tuesday makes a one-time waiver of that adult use restriction for the Cowpie Classic at Emerald. Council will need to pass the ordinance again.

“This is one of those [where] for me it was very easy,” said Council member Michael Buccino, who first spoke of the issue last week during his council report. “We’re doing a field, we have citizens who use our parks a lot and we want to honor you guys, honor your history.”  

Emerald Park is available on July 6 — over the Fourth of July holiday — which is currently subject to a blackout date for any new events. This restriction is in place because, over that holiday weekend, the capacity of the Steamboat Police Department is at its limit.

Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s special projects and intergovernmental services manager, said department staff have reviewed Steamboat Rugby’s plan for the event and didn’t think it would require any additional police service. Parks Director Angela Cosby said the Cowpie Classic is a smaller event than most of the youth soccer tournaments that are hosted at Emerald Park.

“I support this because it is an established event,” said Council member Amy Dickson. “If it was a new event, I would be coming from a completely different perspective.”

This is the second time in as many weeks that Council has discussed the blackout dates for new events currently on the books. The city indicated last week it could waive the blackout date for a new event at the base area of Steamboat Resort on the Fourth of July — an event that is being seen as replacing Steamboat’s fireworks show.

Council member Joella West said she didn’t feel Council has provided much clarity as to when they would be willing to waive a blackout date for an event. DelliQuadri said because the policy is tied to the capacity of city services, staff is discussing how to address events that don’t draw on city services.

“Not all events have any public safety needs, thus a lack of public safety capacity is not a challenge that the city faces,” DelliQuadri said. “Our ban may be a bit too broad brush. … Clearly, we still need to black out anything that requires a public safety presence or response. However, there are other smaller things that wouldn’t.”

DelliQuadri said she didn’t think the policy needed to change, but Council may need to update the direction of how to implement it.

Steamboat Springs Rugby Football Club first held an invitational in 1973. The night before the event, some livestock got on the field and “left their calling cards,” according to the club’s website. Despite the agricultural aftermath they found, the first year was seen as such a success that it was turned into an annual event with a moniker to match.

Jason Troyer, the treasurer for Steamboat Rugby, said they are one of the few clubs in the mountains that are able to have a tournament like this and that it has grown to be nationally renowned.

“It is comparable to the Aspen Ruggerfest, which is a world-renowned tournament,” Troyer said. “To be able to have Cowpie again this year, especially for our 50th, will only help us strengthen what we’ve already got going.”

A public comment from resident Bill Jameson asked about how adult use may lead to an increased impact on the field generally reserved for youth. Council member Bryan Swintek said he had the same question, and confirmed that any damage is addressed through the special events process.

The rugby club also coordinated with the Yampa River Botanic Park to ensure they didn’t have a conflicting event planned for that day.

“The only reason you are coming to us tonight is a one-year closure in the normal fields that you play on,” council member Steve Muntean said. “I see absolutely no reason not to approve this.”

Top Photo Caption: Steamboat Rugby plans to move its annual Cowpie Classic to Emerald Park this summer. (Dustin Brown/Courtesy)


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