A TD Place/Lansdowne review ahead of home game #2

Though it feels like it took forever to get here, on Saturday the Ottawa Redblacks will play Home Game #2 against Saskatchewan in front of a second-consecutive sold out crowd at TD Place.

While there was so much to like about the inaugural game experience (winning certainly didn’t hurt), there were also more than a few issues for fans to deal with. OSEG can be excused for many of them, what with the inaugural game being the first real event staged at the new stadium, but there is no doubt they are looking to make a great second impression on Saturday. It was great to see just how seriously they are taking the fan experience, including an email to season ticket holders seeking feedback. Very nicely done.

Here’s our look back:

Lansdowne development

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Though still very much a work in progress, it is not hard to see just how great this place is going to be, especially on game days. Once those restaurants & patios are open for business, lighting the way to the Aberdeen Pavilion, Lansdowne will be a sight.

Pre-Game Party

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Entrances at both the east and west of the Aberdeen Pavilion are used as a smart point of entry to the pre-game not-quite-tailgating-but-the-next-best-thing party area. Once inside the Pavilion (which was more or less a holding area and will probably be used more effectively in the future), alcohol could be purchased inside or outside on the “patio”.

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Food trucks on the patio are a great idea – just need more of them! And The Trews concert was a great surprise. Ottawa’s Sarah McClurg will perform on Saturday.

I was really impressed with this concept OSEG have come up with. I can see the pre-game party becoming a great aspect of game day and draw fans to the park nice & early.

Entering the stadium (North Side)

Entered at Gate 3 to get to our North side (doesn’t suck) seats. Gate 3 was previously only a Civic Centre entrance, so neat that the concourse will now be shared with the football stadium. Will provide for more concessions, bathrooms, etc. – all needed amenities on the North side. However, none of it was really in use for the inaugural game. A bit of a disappointing first impression, but with a little vision, it is easy to see how good the experience will be.

Our seats

As advertised and pretty comfortable. Massive upgrade from the South Side upper deck benches, no doubt. Decent leg room too.

Once in our seats, it was odd not to see a single person selling concessions in the stands. Guessing that will change.

The field

The turf itself looks great, and cool that it stretches all the way across from the North to South stands. I recall the field ‘dropping off’ behind the team benches on the South side at the old stadium. Looks very sharp and clean.

Surprised not to see a Redblacks logo present anywhere on the field – expected something at centre field (TD Place logo instead), as well as in the end zones. Also, the on-field advertisements – their presence an unfortunate reality to begin with, looked somewhat incomplete. Perhaps an issue with the removable paint not adhering as expected? Again, it was the first kick of the can. I’m sure field ops (not to mention the sponsors themselves) will make sure the ads look better this time.

The scoreboard

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Highlight of the night. The thing is a monster. And we had a great view from our northwest seat location.

Did see a tweet or two from east-end North Siders complaining that they couldn’t see it too well. Not sure how OSEG overcome that. Second scoreboard???

Sound system

Shaky at the start, which caused some confusion with the marching band, player introductions & a start to the national anthem that had players running to their sidelines as it began.

Sound got better and clearer in the second half.

Had a good chuckle throughout the game at the first down sound effect, sponsored by Otto’s. We weren’t sure if that was a chainsaw or a revving dirt bike sound effect. Redblacks Twitter was nice enough to confirm.

Concessions

Overall, probably the biggest problem of the night. Simply not enough of them open, and those that were w’re not adequately stocked or prepared for the volume of customers.

The lines on the North side were so long, we abandoned the idea right quick. Instead, we went down to the west side promenade (i.e. the stadium main entrance, behind the west end zone) and walked the South Side to find a little more reasonable beer line ups.

A friend of mine decided to forgo the lineups altogether, deciding instead to leave the stadium, cross Bank St., grabbed a few tall cans from The Beer Store and a few slices from Pizza Pizza, re-enter the stadium and bring it all back to his seats. Not a strategy I’d recommend, but it worked quite nicely for him this night.

By the way, once it’s finished, the main entrance area on Bank is going to be a fantastic place to hang out – before, during or after the game. With benches in place on top of the ‘grassy knoll’ on the west side, some fans spent the entire night hanging out there. Hard to blame them – incredible view.

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Halftime

A nice ceremony to celebrate the re-re-retiring of the numbers of ten former Rough Riders players, as well as honouring Grey Cup victories of the past with signage along the walkway in the east end zone. Having a live camera on the field so that we could actually see the players & families would have added quite a bit to it, but nice nonetheless.

The fans

The excitement in the stands and atmosphere in the stadium really made up for all the other shortcomings on a memorable night. While the inaugural game was no masterpiece, it had the drama, intensity and great finish that sent Redblacks fans home happy.

The cheering and enthusiasm was really something special; unlike anything I have experienced at an Ottawa CFL game. #RNation made an amazing first impression.

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Chills. It was great.

I won’t be there on Saturday, but will be watching & listening closely for your feedback on the game day improvements. Follow along on Twitter for the latest.

@OTTRoughRiders

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