Chicago Lions Rugby Football Club
Sick of loitering outside Wrigley Field to scalp a ticket for a hundred bucks? Missing football season? Those who truly love sports know that it’s not always about fancy stadiums and big money trades. They come out to the field (or the court) to see fierce competition, genuine skill, and players with their hearts in it. The city’s premier rugby football team, the Chicago Lions, has been flying under the radar in the Chicago sports world for years, all the while offering one of the most honest sports in the city. The team isn’t about money or high-profile sponsorships. It’s about the sport. And camaraderie. And, of course, winning.
The Lions got their start in 1964, initiating a philosophy that would stick with them forever: “interesting characters.” This tradition is part of what has kept the team dynamic, dedicated, and successful throughout the years. The club name was inspired by the iconic pair of lions who stand sentinel over the Art Institute of Chicago. As a goodwill gesture, the team gifts a small bronze statue of one of the lions to any visiting team. The second lion is given when the Lions visit that team in their home country. To date, there have been over 50 teams honored with this tradition, including clubs in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Led by current Head Coach Marty Wiggins and Assistant Head Coach Chris McClellan, the Chicago Lions now compete in three national leagues: The Rugby Super League, Mens’ Club Sevens and Division I. Within the organization are several teams, including an Old Boys team called the Grey Lions, made up of Lions alums age 35 and over. The Super League runs during Spring, the Sevens play in the Summer, and Division I takes place during the Fall, so the Lions maintain their powerhouse presence in the US rugby scene almost all year long. In 2009 the organization earned three titles: National Sevens Semi Finalists, Midwest Sevens Champions, and Super League Quarter Finalists. Not bad, guys.
The Chicago Lions aren’t just winners on the field. Since 2008 the team has shared its field and clubhouse at Roosevelt and Western with Chicago’s Hope Academy, a west-side private co-educational school for urban youth. The Lions have also taken on the project of developing and coaching the Hope Academy rugby club, passing on their passion for the sport and getting inner-city kids involved in something constructive and positive. A towering iron sign now overlooks the field, bearing the words “Chicago Lions for Hope.” The field and clubhouse may be rented out for private parties and events, benefiting both the Lions and the Hope Academy.
If you talk to a rugby player about the sport, you’ll always see a spark light up behind his eyes, no matter how long its been since he’s played. The Chicago Lions have embodied this passion, making the sport not only fun for them to play, but for us to watch, too. Whatever your style — rowdy fan or laid-back spectator — the Lions games promise a good time to all who come out. Tickets are just $5 at the door, and include BBQ snacks and brews with friends.
For the game schedule, a calendar of events or more info on the team, visit chicagolions.com.