The old press box at Taylor Field was a terrifying place to visit.
It was on top of the grandstand; to get there you climbed the grandstand’s stairs to the very back row and stepped outside — trying to not look down! — onto this little, wire grate hanging about 100 feet above the ground, grab the single, metal railing, and climb a few wire-grate steps to another wire-grate landing, open a door carefully in case the Prairie wind was howling, and step inside, realizing you had survived while pulling closed the door.
No wonder they drank up there.
I know that because my grandfather, Cecil Davis, used to take me into the press box when I was a kid so I could help him clean the place. He was a City of Regina employee who worked at outdoor rinks in the winters and Taylor Field in the summers. After every Saskatchewan Roughriders game there was a collection of empty whisky bottles swept out of the press box.
Maybe that’s why I got into journalism.
Trust me — that unfettered drinking no longer takes place in CFL press boxes. And soon there will be no more Taylor Field.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders play their final CFL game in the city-owned stadium Saturday against the B.C. Lions. Everyone is reminiscing about the old place while casting their eyes westward a few blocks where brand-new Mosaic Stadium awaits the start of the 2017 season and wondering if on-field boss Chris Jones can improve a team that showed flashes of competence through the latter stages of this season.
I grew up at Taylor Field. From my earliest memories I recall running around the stadium’s grandstands while visiting my grandfather. I knew every nook and cranny in the concrete structure.
On my first day of a summer job with the City of Regina, I was on a crew laying sod on Taylor Field just a few days before a Riders exhibition game. The sod got ripped up so badly that new grass had to be installed again, pre-dating the eventual installation of artificial turf.
This was before the Roughriders relocated their locker room from nearby Regina Exhibition Track, where rookie players walking to the practice field would sometimes forget to check for the horses training there.
We used to watch CFL games from the Rider Rookie section. It cost 50 cents and, after the game started, a few kids would climb the 10-foot high fence to escape into the more expensive sections of the stadium to watch Rider greats like Ron Lancaster, George Reed, Hugh Campbell, Ed Buchanan, Ron Atchison and Ed McQuarters.
Now I’m a talk-radio guy and Riders season-ticket holder who attended the home team’s memorable 2013 Grey Cup with my kids to watch Kory Sheets and Darian Durant make history, but for 21 seasons I was the beat writer for the Regina Leader-Post. I visited a lot of press boxes. After Taylor Field expanded in 1976 there were wide, sheltered, concrete ramps leading up to the press box. It’s not as memorable as those early trips, just like the new Mosaic Stadium won’t be as memorable as the old place. But it will be much, much better.