ELKO – Pacific Sports International, a rugby organization, is considering Elko as a location for some of their operations.
“I wanted to introduce Richard Fale with Pacific Sports International,” said Elko Convention and Visitors Marketing and Tourism Manager Tom Lester at Tuesday’s ECVA board meeting. “He wanted to come in and address the board to possibly bring a training facility for a professional rugby team to Elko.”
“Our group of mostly current, some still playing athletes some recently retired, acquires professional rugby teams across the world, primarily focused in New Zealand and Australia [and] some in Europe,” said Fale. “One of our main goals is to develop the sport and the game here in the United States.”
“We have looked for a location that is away from some of the urban centers that we will be operating and that will provide an ideal space to train our athletes. We want to bring everyone from New Zealand, Australia, England, France and Ireland to a spot where we can get them away from the world, focused on themselves.”
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Fall said the organization does a lot of work between Northern California and Salt Lake City, and has often passed through this area.
“We took the time to see what you guys have here and Tom was a great host for us last week,” he said. “We are really liking what we are seeing so far and think this could be an ideal location.”
Fale said PSI has between 1,500 and 1,700 athletes that it is looking at putting themon a four- to six-month training cycle, and “Elko looks like it could be a spot to really consider.”
Fale said he wants to make sure the area would be a “good fit” with the town and neighbors.
“This is very intriguing and welcome,” said ECVA board member Delmo Andreozzi. “What type of infrastructure do you need in place to do this? We have great food here, lots of accommodations, we got your back. I am just curious as to what you need specifically.”
Fale said there are a number of dimensions to what the company is doing, including technology aspects. “We have a lot of virtual reality technology that we are working on that requires a high connectivity, which there is fiber optic cable available here in Elko.”
He said the group also needs indoor training opportunities and he has spoken with Rusty Bahr about the possibility of using the proposed recreation and events center.
“You have the basics and foundations of what we need,” Fale said. “One of the concerns we have is that we have some international athletes that would need to get reliably in and out of the country. If we really needed to, we could just charter flights in and out of the Elko Airport.”
“What is the timeline?” asked board member Matt McCarty.
“We want to make a decision in the next 24 months or so for the long-term facility,” Fale said. “We are working on testing the waters with some events. Our events have a large breadth … some events will have 200 to 300 athletes. Others will have 3,000 to 4,000.”
He said it might work well for them because in the South Pacific the seasons are opposite and the down time here when there are a lot of hotel vacancies is the time they are ramping up, and consumption for content is on the higher end.
“We have to start selectively narrowing down everything in the next three to six months,” Fale said.
He estimates the company would host about 150 athletes and staff at a time, and the company is looking at acquiring one of the hotels for sale.
“If it comes down to it, we may build our own housing facility here,” Fale said. “There are still a lot of questions that need answers.”
Fale said if they do have the athletes here they would want to enroll them in college.
“We want to make sure that they stay engaged in education.”
“I am sure that NSHE and Great Basin College itself would be happy to work with you,” McCarty said.
Lester said the group is also thinking of hosting a couple events here in the very near future.
“We haven’t made any final decisions,” Fale said outside the meeting. “We have taken a look at Wells, Elko, Winnemucca and Wendover. Some of the guys in the organization prefer Winnemucca because it is closer to them. But, Elko just seems to have a little bit more to offer.”
The athletes would be training here October through February or March.
“We like the elevation,” Fale said. “I haven’t experienced the winters here yet, but we don’t want them [the athletes] to be comfortable. We want to provide them an experience that will push their limits and test their ability to endure discomfort, really stress their lungs. Physical fitness is a huge part of what we will be focusing on.”
Fale also spoke with the Elko City Council later in the day, saying Elko was ideally located due to its distance from major urban areas.
“We are excited with some of the developments that you guys have taken, especially with the events and recreation center,” Fale said. “Even though Elko currently has some of the core basic things that we’ll need to successfully operate, we are tracking some of the things the city” is doing to move forward.
Councilman Chip Stone, who also met with Fale on Tuesday, told the council and Mayor Reece Keener that Fale would like to make a formal presentation to the City at a future meeting.
Fale added he also hoped for “an opportunity to further present, more specifically, what we are trying to achieve as an organization and get feedback from the City to see if there can be a hand-in-hand development relationship there.”