DOWNTOWN — Soldier Field will play host to an international rugby match Nov. 1 between the USA Eagles and the renowned New Zealand All Blacks.
"I'm gonna guarantee a sellout, and I'm gonna guarantee good weather on Nov. 1," said Michael Kelly, superintendent of the Chicago Park District, which owns and operates Soldier Field.
"This could really be cool," said Nigel Melville, chief executive officer of USA Rugby.
It's the first time the Bears' home turf will host a rugby match, and only the third time the All Blacks, the reigning Rugby World Cup champions with a history extending back to the 19th century, will play in the United States.
"This is gonna be monumental for us," U.S. player Louis Stanfill said. "The last time we played in Chicago was against Wales, and that was at Toyota [Park]. This will surely be a larger turnout than that. ... This will be the biggest venue we've played in domestically.
"They're legendary, and we're still working our way up," Stanfill added. "It's gonna be a fantastic opportunity for us to go out and show what we're made of and show what kind of progress we've made over the past few years."
Melville said the rugby field "just fits" within the grandstands of Soldier Field. "It's a fantastic stadium, and it's iconic," he added.
Nick Brown, New Zealand Rugby's general manager of public affairs, called the match "a unique and wonderful sporting occasion" and said Chicago was the perfect site as a "sports-mad" town. "We couldn't think of city that's more more fitting for the All Blacks to be playing in," he added.
""Rugby is in our DNA," Brown said. "Sport is in Chicago's DNA. So we think it's a really good fit."
Choose Chicago Chief Executive Officer Don Welsh joined in making the announcement and said it should enhance the city's status as a tourist destination. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he was "thrilled" to host the match.
"This international event will be welcomed by our many sports enthusiasts and is a tremendous opportunity to showcase our great city to the rest of the world," Emanuel said.
NBC will televise the game nationally, with the kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. Tickets will go on sale June 16.
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