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Official Review by Jim Flannery, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Regina Rugby Club began playing football on Park Hughes in 1910. That field, along with the adjacent Park de Young were eventually joined together and reconstituted into a better field in 1927, shortly after the team had changed their name to the Regina Roughriders, with a permanent grandstand being built in 1936 on the grounds.
The field would later be renamed Taylor Field in honour of Neil “Piffles” Taylor, a key figure in the early days of the team, and the team would change its name to the current Saskatchewan Roughriders moniker in 1946.
The Riders officially joined the fledgling Canadian Football League in 1958 and have won the Grey Cup three times since then, most recently in 2007.
In 2006 the field’s name was again changed to Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field and so it remains. The Roughriders have played in this location now for over a century, have hosted the Grey Cup game twice, and have a third Grey Cup scheduled to take place here in November of 2013.
With the announcement that a new stadium will be built next door by 2017, the Roughriders will be relocating for the first time in franchise history, but the time is probably right for a newer, more modern facility to take the place of the aging Mosaic Stadium.
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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".
All the usual items are to be found on the Mosaic Stadium menu, from hamburgers ($7.00) to hot dogs ($5.00) to Western Pizza, a staple of the Saskatchewan landscape ($6.00 per slice). The food I sampled was appropriately warm, fresh and decently prepared.
A bottle of water is an outrageous $4.00, but this seems to be the price in a number of places these days. That hardly makes it less offensive to pay four bucks for something you can get out of the tap for next to nothing. But I digress.
You have to purchase a token before you can buy an alcoholic beverage. This will run you $6.50 but if you want anything more exotic than Molson Canadian or Pilsner, you might have to kick in a couple bucks extra at the drink counter.
Having a lively crowd watching a brand of football that is unequivocally better than the American version means football fans will have fun at the game. Such is the case at Mosaic Stadium. The place is loud and raucous all game long.
Looking around, you'll find some tributes to Roughrider greats like Hall of Famer Ron Lancaster but considering that the team has been playing here for a century, these are surprisingly few and far between.
If you're planning a visit to Mosaic Stadium after August, bundle up. Regina evenings can be downright frigid. The game I attended had a temperature right around freezing, moderate winds and sleet make it just that much more miserable. Plan your visit expecting this kind of weather (or worse) and you should be fine.
Also be aware if you're planning to attend the 101st Grey Cup in Regina on Nov. 24: temporary stands have been erected at the north and south ends of the stadium, increasing seating capacity at the field from 33,427 all the way up to 44,910. Be aware that they are made of aluminum, they're right in the wind, and the metal will sap the heat right out of you as you sit there shivering. So you may want to wear your long underwear. And bring a blanket.
Mosaic Stadium is located just northwest of Regina's downtown. Surrounding Taylor Field on three sides is a residential neighbourhood. To the south are train tracks, which separate north Regina from south Regina, and then there is more residential housing.
The pickings for pre- and post-game, therefore, are relatively slim. If you head a couple blocks to the east you'll find yourself on Albert St., the main artery in Regina. If you head north or south on Albert, you'll find all the usual franchises: Burger King, McDonalds, Robin's Donuts, and Mr. Sub. For anything out of the ordinary, more upscale or a lounge, bar or pub, you'll likely have to make more of a trip. The good news is that, in a city of about a quarter million people, the entire city is no more than a 20-minute drive from the heart of town.
Saskatchewan Roughriders fans are, without a doubt in my mind, the most rabidly dedicated group of fans in all of Canada. The Riders are the only professional sports team in the province and Saskatchewan natives are crazy for their team as a result. Riders fans are so dedicated to their team that they will show up to virtually any sporting event anywhere in their green-and-white gear, regardless of whether the Riders are playing or not.
They also have a reputation for wearing watermelons on their heads while watching games, although I didn't actually see anyone doing that at the game I attended (there were, however, a couple people wearing pumpkins on their heads, what with it being very close to Halloween).
So it should come as no surprise that about two-thirds of the population in the Mosaic Stadium stands are decked out in full-on Roughriders regalia. Moreover, they are loud, fired up, and fully engaged in the game. I can honestly say I've never seen a Canadian crowd get more noisy than the Riders fans when the opposition was huddled up and trying to communicate a play. They truly act as the 13th man for the Roughriders, and not the kind that might cost you a Grey Cup on the last play of the game. Hypothetically.
The fans are, far-and-away, the best part of taking in a game at Mosaic Stadium.
Unless you are a season ticket holder, you won't find any parking at Mosaic Stadium. The residential neighbourhood Taylor Field is surrounded by is all permit parking as well, so no luck there. So if you want to drive to the game, you'll be in for a minimum 15-minute walk.
There are a handful of parking lots across the railroad tracks in the downtown core and a fairly large free parking lot directly west of the stadium at the Brandt Centre and Evraz Place. Be prepared if you park at Brandt Place, however; they close the east parking lot gates in mid-evening, making walking back to your car a challenge.
You can also find parking in the residential areas to the south and southeast of the stadium, again, a good 15-minute walk away.
Your other option is to take a chartered bus or city transit to get to the field. The bus runs up and down Albert St. and there are express buses from four key mall locations that deliver people to Riders games as well.
Something that I found particularly distressing about Mosaic Stadium is that I have never in my life been in a concourse as small and cramped as that in Mosaic Stadium. Trying to navigate from one end of the concourse to the other through the crush of humanity during halftime was the kind of struggle that might make a claustrophobic person have a nervous breakdown. Lengthy queues for the smattering of concessions and the woefully few washrooms just made it worse. This is outright unpleasant.
On the upside, if you're watching from the north end zone, the space behind the stands is much roomier. You're looking at using porta-potties back there (at least while the temporary stands are in place for the 101st Grey Cup), but there is much less of a wait than in the main concourse. The concession trailers out there also appear to have the same menu as in the main concourse, so choosing the shorter lineups back there won't cost you either.
Canadian football is always entertaining so chances are pretty good that you'll get your money's worth. With ticket prices starting at $26 per seat, the cost is also fairly reasonable. Mix in a good atmosphere and you have yourself all the pieces for a fun night out.
Gainer the Gopher is the team mascot and he spends his time around the field and in the stands keeping the kids amused.
The Riders Cheer Team helps keep the energy up in the stadium between plays with cheers, acrobatics and a couple routines on the field during timeouts.
In a couple locations around the concourse and also outside of the west stands you'll find Riders team stores with a selection of Riders apparel and knick-knacks. I've seen better appointed shops in a number of different venues but perhaps the Riders don't need it since it seems that every store in the province has a ton of Riders gear for sale, from big-box department stores to the local gas station. Really, Saskatchewan is nuts for its team.
There is a humongous video screen located in the northeast corner of the stadium providing images and stats. Another recently added, smaller screen is located at the very top of the east stands. These make catching replays pretty easy from virtually any angle in the stands. However, the printing around the scoreboard is difficult to read after sunset so you may have some challenges trying to figure out which number is the down and which is the quarter.
The new home of the Roughriders will be built on the site of Evraz Place, west of Mosaic Stadium and will mean the Riders will move into a new home at a new location for the first time in a century of the franchise's existence. That means there is officially an expiration date on your chance to take in a game at Mosaic Stadium.
So if you are hoping to get a look at one of the old classics of the CFL, you need to think about doing it sooner rather than later.
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