Monday, 31 July 2017

Still totally in awe of the house “Rider Pride” built

An inside look at new Mosaic Stadium.
    REGINA - Every time I sit inside new Mosaic Stadium part of me still doesn’t believe what I am seeing.
    I keep having to convince myself that this place is actually real. I attended the first football game ever held at the state of the art sports facility in Regina, when the University of Regina Rams downed the U of Saskatchewan Huskies 37-29 on Oct. 1, 2016 in U Sports action.
    So far, I have made it to two of the Saskatchewan Roughriders home games during the CFL club’s inaugural season in the new park. Even during my third overall visit there on Saturday when the Roughriders downed the visiting Toronto Argonauts 38-27, I kept constantly looking around. I still haven’t gotten over being in awe of the “new” aspect of the place.
The Roughriders Pep Band plays outside new Mosaic Stadium.
    It has been cool to see the Roughriders play in a modern home.
    It is even better to see the charm of game day has transferred over from old Taylor Field to the new park. I will likely have a better appreciation of that fact after I more digest the “newness” aspect of the facility.
    When they built new Mosaic Stadium, they definitely got it right. It is a place the province of Saskatchewan can be proud of. All the amenities are way better than the old park, and I know that is quite the “Captain Obvious” statement.
    At halftime, it no longer takes up the whole break to use the washroom. You are in and out within five minutes even with a lengthy line. Actually, the washrooms of the facility are so immaculate you question if you should be using them.
The Roughriders Drum Line plays at the tailgate party.
    It is easy to get in and out of concessions. It is nice be able to buy beer on tap.
    It has been great to be able to circle the stadium on the concourse. At Taylor Field, it was impossible to see friends on the other side of the park once you entered the place for the game.
    The best surprise has actually been the familiarity around Roughriders games.
    One of the best parts of game day is arriving two hours beforehand to take in the other festivities. It seemed so reassuring when I ran into the Roughriders Pep Band during my first home game at the new park – a 37-20 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 8.
    They were belting out a whole pile of traditional team songs, and it seemed to set a good vibes tone for the rest of the night.
Gainer the Gopher entertains the fans.
    Seeing the drum line parade all over the place is another great site.
    The tailgate party, which used to be on the practice field beside the old stadium, was moved to a newly built park on the west side of the new stadium. It has become a great meeting place. It is filled with games for the kids and concessions and beer stands that are easy to get to.
    The new tailgate area is well shaded by numerous trees and has a relaxed feel to it. The park is also has a spot to bring special things in like a small Canadian Football Hall of Fame exhibit that was present on Saturday.
    Slowly, I am starting to get an idea where the veteran diehard fans are in the park. For the most part, they are seem to be sitting in areas geographically that are close to where they sat in at the old park. If you attend Roughriders games on a regular basis, you develop an attachment to the community that comes to games consistently.
    One minor difference seems to be the fact the south end zone known as “Pil Country” has replaced Section 28 of the old park in being the spot that holds the most rowdy and colourful fans. Section 28 existed on the east side of Taylor Field.
    The only thing that is missing at the new park is the history and the shared memories from the old park. Those can never be replaced.
    With that in mind, new Mosaic moments are starting to be made at the new park.
The Roughriders paid tribute to the late Joe McKnight on Saturday.
    Before Saturday’s game, the Roughriders held a moving tribute for running back Joe McKnight, who was tragically killed in a road rage incident on Dec. 1, 2016 in Terrytown, Louisiana. The tribute included a video honouring McKnight, who joined the club last season. A large contingent of his family was brought in for the contest.
    The team presented the McKnight family with one of the late tailback’s #33 jerseys, which was signed by the members of the Saskatchewan team.
    During the win over the Argos, a great romance moment between team and fan was created by Roughriders receiver Duron Carter. After he made his spectacular one-handed touchdown catch shortly before halftime, he proceeded to give the ball off to 12-year-old lifelong supporter Paige Hansen.
Duron Carter (#89) makes an acrobatic TD catch just before halftime.
    Paige and her mom, Michelle, have been going to games for years, and they know a few of the players. I knew where they were sitting in the north end zone, and when Carter sprinted to that part of the park, I figured he was running to give the ball to them.
    I saw the family after the game, and they said Carter told them before the contest he was going to give them the ball if he scored in the north end zone. I didn’t hang out long enough post-game to see Carter come out, autograph the ball and visit with the family.
    Carter hauled in nine passes for 131 yards and scored two touchdowns that night, but the fact he gave the first TD catch ball to Paige Hansen ensured that game and performance will always be remembered.
    It was great to see media outlets both mainstream and non-mainstream pick up on that story. From there, I learned young Paige survived cancer at age four and has been an ambassador for both the Children’s Wish Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society thanks to Drew Edwards of 3DownNation.
Pil Country” is becoming home to the more rowdy fans.
    I never knew the Hansens’ background story. I always just saw them as great fans, and similar with most fans at the park, conversations focused on the Roughriders and subjects that are light in nature. Their story in connection with Saturday’s game made that night at new Mosaic Stadium that much more special.
    One day, the overall “newness” of the Roughriders new home will pass. The best part is you know in your heart more great memories are waiting to be made.

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