As the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the CFL Player’s Association continue to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, the start of the season hangs in the balance.
With players striking until a new deal is reached, fans and local businesses are keeping a watchful eye on the situation with games potentially getting cancelled.
“You can feel the energy in the city when the Riders are playing. It’s infectious, it’s exciting and to think that we might not get that experience in the same sense as we have in the past, it’s disappointing,” said Tyler Burton, assistant general manager at Regina’s Cathedral Social Hall.
That infectious energy on a Rider game day translates to dollars for local businesses which are now waiting in limbo on whether or not Monday’s preseason contest between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg at Mosaic Stadium will even be played.
“Rider games are often the biggest show in town. They give a much-needed boost to our tourism and hospitality sector anytime we can host a game in Regina so we are anticipating a busy weekend with the upcoming game,” said Chelsea Galloway, Chief Tourism and Visitor Growth Officer for Economic Development Regina.
“We are really excited to have that in town and our restaurants, our hotels, and airport are all ready to welcome people back.”
The potential cancellation of Monday’s pre-season game — not to mention possible further cancellations depending on how long the work stoppage lasts — affects the entire economy. This is especially critical in markets like Saskatchewan where CFL game days provide a major financial boost.
“You see it all over our city, but I think definitely in our restaurants and our hotels it’s those last minute cancellations, business that they’re anticipating. They get that schedule, they see those games, they’re trying to staff up, they’re building budgets around that so our entire hospitality sector gets impacted by things like this,” said Galloway.
“Rider events are the games that we plan forward to months in advance. We make sure the staff can’t book off the days just because we know we are going to get slammed pre-game and post-game. It’s huge for us; we look forward to it every year.
“Last year obviously was a little different with COVID but this year was supposed to be the first normal year back so it’s tough to know that we might be losing some of those games, if not all of them. The numbers don’t lie, they are some of our busiest days of the year.”
Even vendors at Mosaic Stadium like Fresh Carnival are stuck managing 40 staff members and preparing perishable food items for an event that may or may not happen this coming long weekend.
“We do plan as far ahead as possible for that so we do have all this extra product coming in which is already hard enough to find these days with all the other factors out there in the world,” said Burton.
“But for us to plan so far ahead and then to have it just not happen last minute it makes you stand back a bit and shows how volatile the industry can be and how all the little events around a city like Regina make such a big difference.”
But the biggest boost for Regina’s economy will come in November when the city hosts the Grey Cup and its accompanying festival.
“The Grey Cup is very significant. We’ve hosted it three times in Regina in the past. This time we actually have 10 more hotels, over 1,000 new rooms, so it’s big. We’re projecting a sellout at this point so it’s a massive event for our city,” said Galloway.
After two tough pandemic years, businesses are hoping for a quick solution to the latest collective bargaining situation.
“The timing couldn’t be worse, obviously, and that goes without saying. I mean, after coming out of COVID and after going through a year that’s kind of week-by-week where we don’t know what to expect, to see the finish line or whatever that may be and think, ‘Oh we have this first Rider pre-season game coming up’ and everyone is talking about it and then all of a sudden for it to be pulled out from under our feet, it’s disappointing,” said Burton.