San Diego’s Petco Park will replace Los Angeles’ Home Depot Center as venue for 2007’s USA 7s tournament, a move which looks to confirm USA Rugby mismanaged the showcase event before selling it.
The privately owned tournament is departing Los Angeles partly to reduce high facility costs, according to people familiar with the matter. American International Media, which purchased the event in fall 2005, disliked the event’s now-expired three-year agreement with the Home Depot Center and could not reach a new pact.
San Diego also has shown much greater enthusiasm for hosting the event. The city’s mayor, the owner of the San Diego Padres, representatives from the Sports Council and Convention & Visitors Bureau, and local rugby men have all been involved in AIM’s planning. Petco Park is jointly owned by the city and the Major League baseball franchise.
The move repudiates departed chief executive Doug Arnot, who had negotiated USA Rugby’s agreement and made at least $700,000 in losses before he was forced to sell the event as well as rights to the Eagles 7s jersey. In effect, AIM American changed the venue as soon as it could exit the lease and secure the IRB’s blessing to change locations.
Earlier this year, the governing body renewed USA Rugby’s tournament license for five years.
In an interview with Rugby Magazine, Mr. Arnot had asserted “we pay no rent at the Home Depot Center.” But the 2006 tournament paid tens of thousands of dollars for player meals alone, according to people with knowledge of the event.
As in past years, the tournament is slated for the second weekend in February, the 10th and 11th, following the New Zealand 7s in Wellington.