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Sports Tourism

Cottage Grove is excited to embark on the next phase of growth in its already established sports tourism industry. Madison United Rugby (MUR) and Cottage Grove have partnered to establish The Rugby Sports Complex, Phase 1, of which MUR invested over $1 million to build and maintain two rugby and soccer fields.

MUR’s Phase 2 goals include developing a new financially self-sufficient multi-purpose facility without the need to borrow money for construction or the need for large annual public funding for sustainability. Five years of research and site visits around the world have resulted in the design of an inspiring multipurpose education, health and wellness, and sports facility, with additional spectator seating. Because rugby will be at most a 20 percent user of the facilities, 80 percent of the available time can support education, recreation, community and business programming.

The plans developed by architect Pat Schmitt include an internationally significant museum, library and archives focused on the 19th century origins of American sports. These historic resources feature the first-ever U.S. Women’s Sports History collection and the U.S. Rugby History collection, including the origins of American football. This resource will be a destination for school field trips, with additional curriculum support for teachers. Furthermore, UW-Madison students and professors will use the resources, programming and facilities for research. A further goal will be to host evening, adult-educational programing events featuring both sport and non-sport related topics.

The planned building will also include amenities for hosting conferences, such as banquet seating for 300, catering kitchen, large trade show areas, break-out rooms and an audio-visual presentation room. The goals are to meet the conference needs of local businesses and to attract regional and national education, nonprofit, and sports conferences and coaching clinics.

Adjoining the banquet room will be an easily-separated bar and lounge area. These features will also attract a wide variety of community events, including Lion’s club fundraisers, weddings, reunions and birthday celebrations. In addition, area residents will have the chance to socialize with international athletes and visitors.

The four locker rooms and large multi-purpose room will support a wealth of health and wellness activities for people of all ages. Situated on the recently approved connection of the Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail and the Capitol City State trail into Madison, these facilities will be the most bike-friendly in the country and will attract regional to national cycling events. In addition, any sports organization playing at Bakken Park or at other area recreational sites will be invited to become members of the new facility.

Most importantly, this new building, with increased seating, will allow MUR to bid on national and international rugby events. Cottage Grove has already been designated as the permanent site of the Wisconsin Boys State High School Rugby Championships. Moreover, the site has the capacity to anually host a wide variety of Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four rugby tournaments at all levels. Increased seating could also allow the community to host larger events, such as a concert during the Fireman’s Festival.

The new facility and its events will bring an exponential surge in sports tourism to benefit Cottage Grove in many ways. Madison United Rugby has pledges from the rugby community toward the construction of the building and toward the museum, library and archives. With the additional funding support of area businesses, foundations, community organizations and individuals, MUR’s vision is within reach. For more information, visit

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