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Official Review by Phil Selig, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Ottawa Gee Gees were named originally for their Garnet and Gray uniform colors. This was later shortened to GG and later adapted to play on the horse racing term for the first horse out of the gate. Today the team has adopted a horse themed logo and the name Gee Gees.
Ottawa U first started their program in 1881 as part of the QRFU, or Quebec Rugby Football Union, eventually adapting to the forward passing version of football we know today and migrating to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football conference in 1968, which is part of the (CIS) Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the governing body for University Football across Canada.
The Gee Gees have won 2 National titles in 1975 and 2000 and have appeared in 3 more title games. Their 1975 undefeated title team is considered one of the most dominant in CIS history.
Gee Gees Field, located on their satellite campus on Lees Avenue, was opened in 2013 with a synthetic field turf surface, a standard capacity of 3,352 which can be increased to 4,152 with the seats consolidated in one bench style grandstand on the south side of the stadium. The opposing teams bench is on the opposite side of the field which is buttressed by highway 417 creating an interesting dynamic with the noise of traffic at points adding to the buzz of the stadium and at others distracting from it.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The CIS season is relatively short and the Gee Gees play their biggest drawing game against local rival Carleton U at the Home of the CFL's RedBlacks, all this to say that the stadium itself is actually more designed for intramural sport and field rentals for local sports clubs, thus they don't have any permanent food vendors on site.
For game days they have a stand for local Pizza establishment Gabriel's, who deliver to the stadium, and a Food Truck preparing hot dogs, fries, etc. Standard fast food fare is available here. The pizza is delivered to the site so best to either grab a slice when you first arrive or keep your eyes peeled for a fresh supply of boxes coming in, otherwise you might get a less than piping hot slab. Hot dogs are decent size closer to a ballpark frank and the fries are hot and crispy.
The games are dry, thus no alcohol options. Pepsi is the soft drink of choice with cans available from the Pepsi family of products.
Foodies need not apply, however, if you missed dinner and want a quick fast food item to tide you over the option is there.
You are closer to a high school experience than you are to the Big House in Michigan or The Ohio State University. Canadian University athletics truly take a backseat to academics, this means that they are supported by a relatively small yet fervent fan base. With that in mind, the stadium is a nice, small sporting facility, an effective clean space built on a small budget.
The seats are consolidated on the south side of the field with the press box built into it. Seating consists of metal bench seating, with wide aisles and easy access for those requiring handicap access.There is a basic scoreboard to keep you up on score, field position, and downs. The sound system is actually very crisp and a good volume, easily audible throughout the entire stadium.
The Gee Gees run a few promotions during the game, trivia for a select fan in the stands, kick for pizza at half time, enough activity to keep your attention during lulls in action. The mascot patrols the stands and keeps what is a pretty sizeable contingent of youth football teams engaged.
Seats are sold as general admission. If you want to be part of a section of loud cheering kids, join them. Or if you prefer to be on your own, move to another section. I would personally suggest sitting a few rows up from the railing as the seats are slightly recessed and unless you are rather tall, the railings will appear in your sightline.
The Ottawa U campus is located in the heart of downtown Ottawa and was built before there was a downtown Ottawa. This means that there is no real space to add to the campus proper, thus the Gee Gees stadium is located about 10 minutes from the main Ottawa U footprint on a satellite campus.
The reality is if you are an Ottawa resident you will probably frequent your local haunt. Ottawa has seen a recent uptick in local bistro restaurants and microbreweries. If you are visiting from out of town, you will likely head towards Elgin St., The Market or the Glebe for unique restaurant experiences as there are no draws within relative proximity of the stadium.
Parliament Hill is a must see for anyone visiting the Nation's Capital. You are roughly 7 mins by car from the stadium, which is conveniently located adjacent to Highway 417 the major artery through town. The stadium and campus are also attached to one of the hubs for Ottawa's rapid bus transit system and will eventually be within walking distance of the soon to be completed Light Rail train system.
The Hampton Inn and Suites is two highway exits down the way and actually attached to RCGT Park, Ottawa's baseball stadium. I would likely recommend staying downtown closer to Parliament, somewhere on Elgin and either driving to or taking a short bus ride to the stadium.
CIS sports tend to take a backseat to academics. Ottawa is a diverse, generally white collar community with a highly educated workforce, many with allegiances to other universities from all over Canada, the city itself is divided by two schools, Ottawa U and Carleton. All this to say, that you have a smaller potential target fan base than what would appear on the surface.
Overall attendance seems to ebb and flow with the opponent and the game day forecast. It should be noted that the recent Panda Bowl against local rival Carleton did draw close to 24,000 fans to the recently renovated TD Place home of the RedBlacks.
The crowd was engaged in the game, this may have been due largely to the sizeable number of youth teams who all received complimentary Gee Gees thunder sticks. The hum of the highway at points filled in for some quiet patches but at other points distracted a little bit, for instance stunt driving motor cyclists passing the stadium. It is a different effect than I have experienced at a stadium, I am still not sure if it is a plus or a minus.
The stadium is located adjacent to the major highway in town, easy to get on or off. There is a small parking lot on the campus, but it did appear as most either arrived via public transit or for many of the youth teams bus rental.
If you are travelling from the airport I would probably suggest Uber which has recently brokered a deal to provide service to and from.
Otherwise OC Transpo has a trip planner for mass transit. The reality is that Rapid Bus Transit in Ottawa is designed for a consolidated government work force that travel to and from a dense work population. General travel via bus takes some planning. Parking at Gee Gees Field can be found here.
There is one gate, which is temporary for game day. It appears most people go with the print at home option, although they do have computer access at the gate.
The field is viewable from all points. Want to grab a slice of pizza you can still watch the game. The stands are wide open and accessible, if you want to stand field side just beyond the home team bench you can take in a portion of the game or grab a quick snapshot. The stadium and the stands are very accessible for those with special requirements.
The target market is Current Students, Alumni and Youth with that in mind there is discounted pricing to reflect this.
$16 for an adult ticket is likely pushing the upper boundary but if you are an alumnus or a senior citizen the cost is a more reasonable $13. This price drops to $8 for a current student and $7 for kids.
Food is reasonable at $5 for a pop and a slice of pizza or hot dog and a drink, fries and a drink.
Buy your tickets in advance and save $2 as prices at the gate are a little more expensive, your $16 ticket becomes $18
If you have a group of 10 or more the prices become a much more affordable $5 for adults, $3 for kids or free entry for kids with their teams jersey. Groups of 10 or more where the youth are in team jerseys, may get in for free if accompanied by an adult for every 5 youth in team jerseys (a ratio of 4 kids to one adult). For instance, if there are 15 kids in team jerseys, there must be at least 3 adults purchasing tickets (at the group rate price) and they must be accompanying this group. This deal is only available if purchased by the Thursday at 4pm preceding the actual game.
The staff consisting largely of students are very welcoming and friendly. Everyone appears to legitimately enjoy themselves.
Special thanks to the Gee Gees coordinator Jennifer for her assistance and providing basic all access to me in compiling this report.
The reality is that Canadian college football is nowhere near the draw that its American cousin is. This results in a relative underfunding of sports infrastructure. The Ottawa Gee Gees have built a nice stadium to finally call home after playing in the cavernous and for too long neglected Frank Clair Stadium (since renovated as TD Place). Are you likely to look at the map and visit Ottawa purely to take in a University football game? Probably only if you are a true diehard or love the Canadian College game. With that in mind though, for any Ottawa U alums, current students or families looking for an affordable engaging night out, there is strong value in checking out a Gee Gees game.
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292 Elgin St
Ottawa, ON K1S 5S9
100 Coventry Rd.
Ottawa, ON K1S 5S9