Regina‘s restaurants, bars and hotels will see a boost on Friday like nothing they have experienced since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are back at Mosaic Stadium on Friday evening when they host the B.C. Lions at 7:30 p.m. CST.
Energy has been building in Regina leading up to the Riders’ season opener, and businesses across the Queen City have been preparing for the big day.
“Regina’s hopping right now and folks are just vibrating,” said Jim Bence, president and CEO of Hospitality Saskatchewan. “For the visitor economy, this is a shot in the arm. It’s all hands on deck and it’s a really great time in Regina.
“Restaurants are gearing up for the pre-game and post-game crowds. There will be a lot of pent-up demand.”
It’s a much needed help for the city’s hospitality industry. According to Bence, there has not been a single hotel sellout in Regina in the last 17 months until this weekend.
He noted how Regina’s downtown core has seen very low occupancy rates from nine to 10 per cent in that time, however, it’s a different story ahead of the Riders’ first game at home.
Anyone hoping to snag a hotel room on Friday in the provincial capital might be out of luck.
Bence mentioned how it’s “extremely difficult” to find a room in the city, but he encourages people to keep trying considering there may be some cancellations.
“Unless you made a booking a couple weeks ago, it was getting pretty problematic,” Bence suggested. “I think there might be the odd room available, but if you’re trying to find a room right now, you might be a little bit out of luck.”
Tim Reid, president and CEO of Regina Exhibition Association Limited, admitted it has been a long 17-month wait for this moment.
When the news came out that the 2021 CFL season was a go and provincial health measures were going to lift, Reid said REAL began staffing up.
“There will be 300 members of the REAL team and REAL family working on Friday,” he noted.
About 700 employees will staff concessions and vendor booths in the stadium.
On top of that, there will be 200 volunteers from the Regina Optimist Club operating REAL’s bars and restaurants.
Reid said the return of Rider football also provides volunteer and not-for-profit groups with the opportunity to gain valuable funds.
“We represent anywhere from 50 to 75 per cent of annual earnings for not-for-profits to help sustain them. This is not just about us, it’s also about helping those groups in the community,” added Reid.
“When you add this all up, there is probably 1,200 to 1,500 people that will get work out of one Rider game, which is significant.”
According to Economic Development Regina, based on data from the 2019 CFL season, the impact a Riders home game has on Regina is about $4 million. This include Riders’ game-day operations and tourism spending such as restaurant meals and hotel stays.