July 18 2014 was the historic first ever home game for the new CFL team the Ottawa RedBlacks. The game was a sellout more than a month earlier. The cheapest tickets in the house were going for about US$ 150 I had heard which was amazing as the retail price was just under CDN $20!
Praise has to go to Jeff Hunt and his people as what I thought would be a nightmare getting to the game was reasonably easy. Granted I left at 4:30 pm for a 7 pm game, but still, so did many others. We chose the free parking with a free shuttle option. The first parking lot at the RA Center was full but there was plenty of parking at Canada Post HQ. Many workers were there to help people get to the parking and on the shuttle. It took about 12 minutes (someone on the bus timed it!) to get to TD Place, the newly named “Lansdowne Park stadium.
We walked around outside the stadium to enjoy the newly built Lansdowne park area. There were numerous newly built great looking commercial buildings which eventually will provide restaurants, office space, a movie theater and other amenities to game goers and others who just want to visit. It really looks like it is going to truly be a destination.
We decided to wait to eat inside the stadium as I was told there was a 12 inch RedBlacks hotdog. As we entered, we noticed that it was still unfinished and a number of concessions and restaurants were not yet open. We went to one concession on the main level at the west end of the stadium and waited quite a while to get our RedBlack dogs. But alas we were told they were not footlong and it appeared they weren’t available at this concession. So we ordered a couple of Italian sausages at $7.50 each which looked like German sausages with grilled sweet peppers on top. They were great. The large ice teas we ordered for $4 came as small ice teas but since things took so long and we just wanted to get to our seat and enjoy the new stadium, we took what we were given and headed out to our seats.
Once we got through the stifling crowd behind the stands and out on the field side of things, we moved quicker and were able to get to our seats fairly quickly. The North Side Stands, being the best side of course, were about half filled already at about 6 pm. The South Side, which I understand “sucks”, was still fairly empty. For those unaware of the history of Ottawa CFL football at this stadium, there is a long running friendly feud between the north side stands and those of the south side and “South (or North as the case may be) side sucks” chants would begin shortly after the game began and likely continue forever!
At one point throughout the game, people came back saying that they were out of beer at some concessions, which is a good problem to have for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which runs things. Comments about lengthy lineups were also common which is to be expected at a home opener and certainly at this one where TD Place is still not yet finished. But it looked to me like there was a great view from every seat. Also, this was the first sellout of a CFL game this year which was nice for Ottawa and the CFL but surprising that other teams had not had sellout crowds yet.
Virtually everyone stayed until the end which meant that there would be huge crowds of people leaving at the same time. Coming to the game crowds were staggered which is helpful in terms of traffic. But would leaving be a different story? As it turned out, we stayed about 10 minutes until many people had cleared out and then left. we ended up having to wait about 25 minutes for our shuttle bus to the Canada Post parking lot which, all in all, is not that bad. I DO despise waiting though; who doesn’t. I had heard there were long line ups waiting for the OC Transpo buses as well.
Again, it didn’t take that long to shuttle between TD Place and the Canada Post parking lot, perhaps 15 minutes or so although I didn’t time it. I had a hard time standing up waiting in line and was in pain due to a back issue so I didn’t really pay attention to much in the school bus which acted as a shuttle. There were many police doing traffic duty and keeping things under control. It was a very successful night for OSEG. They had obviously spent a lot of time and effort planning the “way to TD Place” not just this night but all game nights which appeared to be time well spent. They also had a dry run about a week and a half prior to the opening night where about half the season ticket holders showed up to see their seats and the new TD Place, which helped them iron out some problems.
What a night. CFL football is now back in Ottawa and I sure hope it will stay!