Established in 1841, in Kingston, Ontario, Queen’s University is one of the oldest and most respected universities in Canada. There are few schools in Canada that are so steeped in tradition and history. Walking through Kingston the tri-colours of yellow, red and blue can be seen all over the city. That tradition and history has also been found in their football program. Of all of the traditions at Queen's, the most beloved might be the singing of the Oil Thigh at a Gaels touchdown. This semi-impromptu chant has been part of Queen's traditions for as long as most can remember and traces its Scottish roots back to when Canada was just an infant as a country. The Gaelic war cry "Cha Gheill" means No Surrender, and is the mantra for Queen’s athletes.
The Queen's Golden Gaels football program was established back in 1882. Since that point the Gaels have seen a great deal of success on the gridiron. The program has produced three Hec Crighton Winners as the Most Outstanding Player in CIS football, won the Vanier Cup as Canadian National Champions four times and even won the Grey Cup in 1922, 1923 and 1924. They have also won the Yates Cup as Ontario Conference Champions 23 times and the Dunsmore Cup as Quebec-Ontario Conference Champions seven times.
Home for the Gaels since 1921 has been George Taylor Richardson Memorial Stadium. Originally built in the centre of Queen's campus, Richardson Stadium hosted the 1922 Grey Cup and saw Franklin Delano Roosevelt receive an honorary degree in 1938. George Richardson played hockey at Queen's from 1902 to 1906, and was one of the best players of his era. He enlisted in the military and served in World War I, where he was killed in action in Belgium. Upon his death, he bequeathed money to the Queen's Athletic Department. In 1971, Richardson Stadium was rebuilt and moved to the newer West Campus of Queen's. Although there was opposition at the time, the students would grow to call the new Richardson home. A completely rebuilt Richardson Stadium just opened in 2016 and has become a new standard for stadia in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics).
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Concession options at Richardson Stadium are a little bit different. Queen's has partnered with both Pita Pit and Gabriel's Pizza to provide permanent concession options at Richardson Stadium. Pita Pit especially is not a traditional partner that you would find in an athletic facility, but are getting their foot in the door at Queen's. Pita Pit provides a variety of wraps, which are pre-made and can be toasted on site. They offer a Black Bean vegetarian option, chicken souvlaki, chicken caesar and club. If you are looking for something original, then you will want to try the Gael, which features chicken, bacon, lettuce, peppers, mushrooms, cheddar, tzatziki and falafel. Gabriel's offers regular and premium slices of pizza ($5/$6). More traditional fare can be found at the Kenny's tents where you will find hot dogs, sausages and other traditional BBQ items.
Coca-Cola products are available in plastic bottles if you are looking for a drink ($3). The Gaels Club at the north end zone is a licensed area where alcoholic beverages can be purchased. However, due to strict alcohol laws in Ontario, beverages may not leave the Gaels Club area. A surprising aspect of Richardson Stadium is a distinct lack of water sales. There are a number of water fountains and water bottle filling stations around the stadium, showing a conscious effort to combat the amount of waste produced from plastic water bottles as well as the beverage companies that are drawing community water for pennies.
For OUA football, Queen's is now without peer. The rejuvenated Richardson Stadium is clearly the best stadium in the entire conference, and possibly the CIS. The main entrance to Richardson Stadium is at the east grandstand. The main gate features a smart looking permanent building made of grey stone and featuring signs that recognize the main donors that made the new stadium possible. There is also a nice display outlining the Richardson legacy. The stadium area is surrounded by wrought iron fence. There are a ton of flags around the stadium many are fairly generic Queen's 175th anniversary banners. At the northeast corner, which can be viewed from inside or outside the stadium, a pole stands with four pennants honoring the four Vanier Cups as Canadian National Championships that the Gaels claim.
Inside the gates, Richardson Stadium continues to be impressive. The north-south oriented field is now artificial field turf, ending Queen's run as the last OUA team with a natural grass surface. Richardson features two scoreboards, each behind an end zone. The north scoreboard is simple, while in the south is a decent video board. The seating is a horseshoe with the north side open. The north end zone features the Gaels Club where fans can partake in an alcoholic beverage. Seating in Richardson is metal benches with backs for most of the stadium. Between the forty yard lines are plastic stadium seats which go for an extra cost. Above the west grandstand is a nice press box and luxury box structure. The OUA does not have another stadium with luxury boxes like this. On the side of the luxury box structure is a mural honoring the 32 Conference Championships, 3 Grey Cups and 5 National Championships.
The game day production is also second to none. Above all other programs, Queen's takes its traditions seriously. Gaelic tradition is found throughout the game. The Queen's Bands enter at the beginning of the game from the southwest corner of the stadium. The students and bands make a grand entrance, walking from the west campus to the stadium, following the flags and the bands. The band is not the typical marching band, but a Scottish pipe band, complete with the tartans and Highland dancers. The 2016 Homecoming Game had its fair share of controversy with many of the previous Homecoming traditions altered, probably due to the new stadium. This would include the engineers and their storming of the field at halftime and the parade of alumni. It will be interesting to see if Queen's moves to reset some of the abandoned traditions for the 2017 Homecoming. After a Gaels score, the fans roll into an unorganized rendition of the Oil Thigh, which they are joined by all of the cheerleaders and dancers. There is nothing over the PA and different parts of the stadium are at different points in the song. It's surely a throwback from a time when there was no PA system and it's neat to see the fans run a piece of the game all by themselves. Finally, the southeast corner of the stadium features a "live stage" where artists are often brought in to add some live music to the game experience. Queen's has a number of cheerleader and dance groups that participate in the game experience. Boo-Hoo the Bear is the Queen's mascot and makes his way around the stadium and enters with the bands. Overall, the experience is second to none in the OUA.
Richardson Stadium is located on the West Campus of Queen's University in the Woodlands neighbourhood of Kingston. In the immediate area, there are not many options, but a few blocks east, fans will find one of the great neighbourhoods in Canada, with plenty to see and do. Head towards the river and Princess Street to find just about everything you could want. A number of national restaurant chains can be found all along Princess, Queen and Brock Streets, but there are also a ton of independant spots that will peak your interest. Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza, Sir John's Public House, The Merchant Tap House, Chez Piggy, The Toucan and Grizzly Grill are all worth checking out.
Kingston is a fantastic spot to be, especially in the summer. The Haunted Walk is interesting and Confederation Park is along the Rideau Trail right by the waterfront. The ferry to Wolfe Island is right there also. Across the river, at the top of the hill is Old Fort Henry, which has a number of activities during the summer and fall. Bellevue House was the home of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. As far as other sporting attractions, there are a number. The Gaels also field a number of other athletic teams, including hockey at the Kingston Memorial Centre and basketball at the Athletics and Recreation Centre. Across the river is the Royal Military College of Canada, where the Paladins play hockey at Constantine Arena. Junior Hockey also has a presence with the Kingston Frontenacs playing at Rogers K-Rock Centre, also close to the Queen's campus.
There are a number of places to stay if you are staying in Kingston. By the waterfront you can find the Confederation Place Hotel, Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront and Delta Waterfront Hotel. All are good spots to stay.
Queen's Gaels fans are among the best in the conference. Queen's has a strong reputation as a school that engages the students in football and have received some of the best support from the student body in the conference. In the 2014 and 2015 seasons the Gaels averaged over 3,300 and 3,900 fans per game respectively. That put the gaels in fifth place and third place respectively in the conference. With the new Richardson Stadium, the Gaels have enjoyed a bump in attendance, averaging over 5,400 fans per game, which is good for second in the conference. The game which was reviewed was the annual Homecoming Game and drew over 8,000 fans to check out the new Richardson Stadium.
The fans that are in attendance are extremely supportive of their Gaels, as well as the other parts of the game day production like the bands and dancers. The opportunity to sing the Oil Thigh is never wasted.
Getting to Queen's and Richardson Stadium is not too difficult. Located on the West Campus of Queen's, Richardson Stadium is a significant distance south of the main highway into Kingston, Highway 401. Getting to Queen's from out of town will require a significant drive through Kingston. Close to the waterfront and the Queen's campus, especially during Homecoming, traffic can be challenging.
For those interested in public transit, there are a number of bus stops near Richardson Stadium. Check out the Kingston Transit website for schedules, fares and maps. The Kingston Trolley may also be an option for you to head to Richardson. Check out the Kingston Trolley website for details.
On the west campus, there are eleven parking lots. The closest lots have passes that can be purchased and usually bought by season ticket holders. There are other lots that are pay lots for $5 per game. There are also a number of free lots where fans can also park and the walk is not too far. The Richardson Stadium website outlines parking options.
The main ticketing area is on the east side of the stadium, part of the permanent structure. This is also where fans must enter the stadium. There is plenty of space, however fans should consider getting into Richardson Stadium before the students make their march into the student gate.
Getting around Richardson is no problem at all. The outdoor walkways are spacious behind the seating area of the stadium. The washroom facilities are pretty good also. Each side of the stadium has a set of washrooms. Keep in mind that the west side washrooms are at field level, behind the grandstand, which will require a trip down the staircase.
With the new stadium, Queen's seems to be pushing the limits with regards to ticket prices. The Homecoming game was pretty expensive, with the gold seats going for $70. Regular game ticket prices are $50 for gold seats, $20 for blue seats and $15 for General admission red seats. Student tickets are in the reserved section 108 and free, but must be reserved. The top tickets are extremely over-priced for CIS football, however blue and red seats are in line with other programs of their calibre in the conference. Concession prices are decent and free parking is not a problem to find at all. The whole package is brought together with one of the best, most unique experiences in all of Canadian College Football.
An extra mark for the great history of the City of Kingston and an under experienced tour destination.
An extra mark for the history of Queen's University, established in 1841 and the massive success of their football program.
An extra mark for the tri-colour and traditions that the Gaels bring to football to make it one of the most unique experiences in Canada.
An extra mark for keeping the memory of George Taylor Richardson alive for almost 100 years.
The Queen's Gaels offer one of the best experiences in all of football in Canada. They now have the best facility in the conference to go with their experience. Although there have been some bumps in the road, especially with the reduction of some Homecoming traditions, the Gaels will no doubt continue to be one of the best experiences a fan can ask for. The rejuvenation of the Oil Thigh at Richardson Stadium is complete.
Scottish culture has played a large part in defining Canadian identity; millions of people from sea to sea can claim Highlands ancestry and today there are still areas of the country where Gaelic is spoken instead of English or French. Yet one of the proudest bastions of Scottish culture is in Kingston, a city the Boston Globe noted "Britannia reigns supreme.”
Queen's University is fiercely proud of its origins with the Church of Scotland. Although the school quickly became secular, it has kept a strong hold on its association with Scottish culture, naming its sporting teams the Golden Gaels. Students still wear traditional Tam O'Shanter hats and chant Scottish songs, while the bagpipes are commonly heard on campus throughout the year.
Queen's was founded in 1841 and today has slightly less than 25,000 students. Queen's alumni have arguably the strongest connection to their alma mater of any school in Canada, and the two October weekends of Homecoming are the best times to see the school's intense spirit.
Richardson Memorial Stadium opened in 1971 on the then-new West Campus, the second stadium to be named for alumnus and World War I veteran George Taylor Richardson. It certainly shows its age today as a portion of the original west stands had to be closed for safety reasons.
For the 2013 football season, temporary bleachers were added at field level on the north and south ends of the stadium to replace some of the lost seating. Today there are plans to replace Richardson stadium with a modern facility that will have luxury boxes and a state-of-the-art game day experience, but any work there is still in the planning stage.
Despite the shortcomings of an aging stadium, the Gaels supporters make football at Richardson Stadium one of, if not the best university sport experiences in the country. Queens' traditions are proudly displayed throughout the match and the students and alumni are incredibly passionate. The spirit here is contagious. This is not a venue to miss!
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