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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Caroline Darney

How Wrexham AFC recreated popular pub The Turf for its U.S. tour

It may have been July in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but it felt like home for fans of the Wrexham Football Club. The Welsh team started its four-game U.S. tour on the east coast before a trip to California for two games and finishing in Philadelphia.

One man in attendance was Wayne Jones, owner of The Turf, a popular pub in Wrexham that’s located next door to the team’s stadium. “This is a little bit crazier for me than it is for you,” Jones said to the crowd from the sidelines pre-game at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill as cheers rained down.

Crazy feels like a bit of an understatement for Jones following the frenzy that has occurred since The Turf was featured on FX’s breakout documentary Welcome to Wrexham.

MORE: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney were in tears following Wrexham AFC’s long-awaited promotion to the Football League

The show follows the journey of actors Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) purchasing the Wrexham AFC and attempting to guide them from the National League — the fifth and final full-time league in the English football league system — to promotion into League Two and beyond. Throughout the 20-episode first season, fans were introduced to both the team and the town of Wrexham, meeting players and locals alike.

As fans became more aware of the team and its long history, they fell in love and started making trips to Wales for games and beers. Of course, those trips included a stop at Jones’s iconic watering hole.

“We’re just grateful, you know. We just open the doors and try our best to run a pub. A pub is nothing without people,” Jones said of the influx of visitors. “It’s not me, it’s not anybody else, it’s the people. The people make the pub. We’re just there to facilitate the best possible experience for them.”

Fans had a chance to get a taste of The Turf before Wrexham’s first stateside match with a pop-up at a fan fest near the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower next to the football stadium. The pop-up included signage from Aviation American Gin and tastes of Blake Lively’s Betty Buzz flavored sodas.

Jones was able to come across the pond for this American journey thanks Aviation American Gin — owned by Reynolds — and something they’ve dubbed the “Wrexchange Program.”

“Aviation American Gin is kicking off another year supporting Wrexham AFC. As a uniquely American Gin, we thought there was no one better to give the team a proper welcome to America as they tour cross-country,” Ricky Collett, the Global & US Brand Director at Aviation American Gin, told For The Win via email.

“The Turf and owner Wayne Jones are rooted in the Wrexham community’s celebratory traditions, and we’re thrilled to bring that experience stateside for Wrexham supporters here. Fans can now enjoy an American gin cocktail in a traditional pub as they cheer on a Welsh team co-owned by a Canadian.”

Jones has since traveled to California for Wrexham games against the LA Galaxy and Manchester United in Los Angeles and San Diego, respectively, before heading to Philadelphia to close out the trip against the Union on July 28.

Season 2 of Welcome to Wrexham is just around the corner with a premier date of September 12, which will certainly bring more attention to The Turf and Wrexham. Jones welcomes it, and is pleased to share his favorite place with so many new faces.

“I’m glad there are so many people from around the world — not just America, but from around the world — get to experience what we get to experience on a daily basis. It’s a beautiful place full of beautiful people.”

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