It’s been five years since Saskatchewan has welcomed the CFL in November.
Since then, a new stadium has been built, the Stampeders have lost in two Grey Cup Finals and a new team has entered the league.
Sunday marks the beginning of a new era in Roughriders history, of success in a new home.
“A home playoff game, in this stadium, we’ve been waiting for this,” Miriam Johnson, the Saskatchewan Roughriders marketing director, said.
“Historic Mosaic was one of those things, but this is the first playoff experience that we’ll have in new Mosaic Stadium. The season ticket holdsers are ready, our fans are ready, we’re really excited,” she said.
But Rider Nation hasn’t scrambled to buy up tickets. In fact, the game isn’t sold out.
“Weather is an issue every single year when we get to this point of the season and as you approach Grey Cup. It’s not a surprise, it’s not a shock,” Johnson said.
The Riders estimate there are still some two thousand tickets available, something that hasn’t been true in the past.
In 2013, the Riders had issues filling out the additional seating they had added for the Grey Cup run, but still had 30,942 fans attend the game – just three off of a sellout for the standard seating.
Beyond that, the last time the Riders were 2,000 fans short of a sellout was in 2007 when they hosted the Calgary Stampeders at just 28,800 fans.
“I remember in 1988, they hadn’t had a playoff game since 1976, and there was so much talk about getting into the playoffs let alone having a home playoff game. When they finally got one, it didn’t sell out,” Rob Vanstone, a Regina sports columnist, said.
Despite the amount of tickets remaining, the Riders say they’re pleased with how attendance is panning out.
“We’ve moved a tremendous amount, especially since we were named our opponent of Winnipeg, so they’ve been moving really fast. We’re not really concerned right now that we’re not announcing a sellout, but we’re hopeful that Rider Nation does still come out and support the team,” Johnson said.
Vanstone believes the biggest factor is the weather; Environment Canada predicts a brisk high of -10 C.
“It’s just increasingly convenient not to go to a live sporting event. If it’s a nice night, nice day, sure, but when we’re standing here freezing and the forecast isn’t supposed to change significantly for Sunday, the elements have got to be a factor,” Vanstone said.
But cold is nothing new to Saskatchewan, and it’s that resilience that the Riders are relying on.
If the Riders estimates are correct, they’ve sold less tickets than their average attendance this season – and less than when they last played the Blue Bombers at home – but for the team, any home support is an advantage.
“Anytime you can be in front of Rider Nation, 13th man, is big and hats off to them for supporting us all season long and we can reward them with a home playoff game,” Roughriders QB Zach Collaros said.
Tickets are still available through the Riders ticket office or online, and will remain so until game time – or – as the Riders hope, they sell out.