DAVIS: Regina and the Riders have evolved into a Grey Cup destination

The City of Regina and the Saskatchewan Roughriders will soon have the same number of Grey Cups.

Four apiece. But the city is seven years older than its CFL team.

Incorporated in 1903, Regina has been awarded hosting privileges for the 2020 Grey Cup, a task the Queen City handled with aplomb in 1995, 2003 and 2013. The Roughriders won the 2013 Grey Cup in their old stadium, previously known as Taylor Field, winning a game cited as the most important in team history and adding to earlier championships won in 1966, 1989 and 2007. The Roughriders were formed in 1910.

There’s a chance the Roughriders could add a fifth Grey Cup victory in 2019, when the game is played in Calgary, but that’s a bit of a longshot with the rejiggering of the team’s hierarchy and some questions about the Roughriders’ offence, particularly at quarterback. Recalling the euphoria of 2013, Rider fans are certainly hoping for another home-town victory in 2020.

Regina won a bidding process against Hamilton and Montreal. Hamilton, which last held the Grey Cup in 1996, was awarded the 2021 game by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie during a TSN-televised announcement Thursday. Montreal last hosted in 2008.

As the smallest CFL centre, Regina had not been considered as a Grey Cup site while the game rotated in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s primarily through the bigger cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. In addition to the size of the city, there were concerns about the limited number of hotel rooms and the dangers of playing a late November contest in Prairie, winter weather.

Roughriders executive members eventually convinced the CFL governors to play the 1995 game in Regina, where it was embraced by the province and, aided by the installation of temporary grandstands that nearly doubled the seating capacity to over 50,000, generated million-dollar profits for the league and the community-owned franchise. It’s interesting to note the first two Grey Cup games played at Taylor Field weren’t sold out.

Through ensuing Grey Cup visits, Regina has dramatically increased its number of hotel rooms and the weather, despite some scary winds and frigid temperatures preceding each game, has been endurable. Regina’s 2016 census lists the population at 215,000

This will be the first Grey Cup game played in $278-million Mosaic Stadium, a new facility the Roughriders moved into in 2017. It seats 33,000 but can apparently be easily expanded to 40,000. Mosaic Stadium sits just northwest of Regina’s downtown, on the city’s exhibition grounds known as Evraz Place, a collection of buildings and sports facilities that are convenient for the numerous events that coincide with the Grey Cup Festival.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.