The best weekend in Wayne

Brandon Hofstra, Staff Writer

It has been called the best weekend in Wayne.
Rugby Weekend. The time of year that means great weather, great memories and, of course, smash mouth rugby.
The Battle on the Nebraska Prairie Rugby Tournament.
After this upcoming weekend, the lady ‘Cats will compete for their fifth national championship on April 30 in Charlotte. The ‘Cats beat The Ohio State University Buckeyes two times in St. Louis last month.
What does The Battle on the Nebraska Prairie Rugby Tournament mean for the people of Wayne, business owners, and the man behind it all?
“It [the tournament] has a significant impact on Wayne’s local economy,”  Wes Blecke, Executive Director of Wayne Area Economic Development, said. “Retailers do very well, bars, eating establishments and hotels.”
Dr. Eric Thompson of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Business Administration Bureau of Business Research found in 2012 that there is an approximate $350,000 of “economic impact” to the Wayne economy.
But for head rugby coach Darrin Barner, getting this tournament up and running isn’t as simple as looking at an article or a spreadsheet of numbers.
“It all starts with invites all the way back to November, and we invite all teams that are within a 15-hour drive,” Barner said. “December and January we go to conference meetings in Denver, St. Louis, Minneapolis and do things the old-fashioned way, meet and greet and handout flyers in person.”
When the size of tournament hit 90 teams a few years ago, games began to run from 8 a.m. till sundown, followed by bracket play on Sunday.
“The bracketing for Sunday took hours and was very stressful, getting things lined up and communication with referee assignments,” Barner said.
Not only are there teams from all over the United States, but also from around the world.
“This year we have five Canadian teams,” Barner said. “We have teams from UK, Australia, New Zealand and France that really want to come here. But they want 2-3 tournaments over a 3-week period, and that is just difficult to plan activities for them for 3 weeks. However, things are shaping up for a Wayne, Kansas City, Las Vegas tour and they can get a lot of games in over 3 weeks and see some sights.”
Even with all the revenue this weekend generates, it’s unknown what event brings the most tourism.
“I’d still say our signature event in Wayne is Chicken Days,” Blecke said. “Hotels are booked for 2-3 nights solid, but the rugby tournament continues to gain in popularity.”
Barner said that Wayne businesses have more walk-in-the-door traffic during rugby weekend then on Chicken Days.
Though, according to Blecke, no official economic data has been recorded on either Chicken Days or rugby weekend.
Rugby Weekend starts Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Wayne Rugby Park, east of McDonalds.