After reliving the highs and trying to forget the lows of years past at the iconic venue, generations of football fans watched and reflected back as Taylor Field hosted its last Saskatchewan Roughriders’ game ever.
Mosaic Stadium literally went out with a bang Saturday evening as the team celebrated the aging, but historic building following the Riders’ loss to the B.C. Lions. The team put on a 30-minute post-game video tribute as 33,000 people wearing glowing, colour changing bracelets watched, chanted, and clapped along to the moments that inspired them to fall in love with the team and stadium.
As the video ended, RCMP officers in Red Serge paraded the Grey Cup onto the field to give to four legends who were waiting in oversized, hooded green Rider jackets, keeping their identities secret. George Reed, Roger Aldag, Gene Makowsky and Darian Durant each removed their jackets and then passed the championship trophy between them.
After absorbing the crowd’s acclamation, Durant counted down from 13, representing the 13th man, and the night’s festivities culminated in a stadium-wide fireworks display.
Some fans found it hard to use words to describe being in the place that had been like a second home to them for the final time, choosing instead to use tears.
“That farewell made me speechless,” said one man. “I will admit I cried.”
“I’m hoping that that new stadium will live up to the expectations but I don’t know, it has a lot of catching up to do with this stadium,” he added.
From the Blackout Bowl of 2007 to countless Labour Day Classics to the single biggest game in Roughrider history in 2013 when the team won the 101st Grey Cup in front of their home fans, Taylor Field has had some of the most thrilling moments in football history.
“I grew up watching Ronny and George. Born here but never lived here, so coming here for the first time in ’87 it was just awe-inspiring to come here and every year I’ve been coming back since,” said fan Barry Smith, who travelled here from Winnipeg.
He was dressed uniquely for the final game, wearing a foam Mosaic Stadium hat on his head he made himself with the words ‘football lives here’ written along the side.
It may be Smith’s last time setting foot in the facility, but the moments he’s spent there will live on with him forever.
“It’s just the memories that the place has. The football that we’ve seen, the friends that we’ve made, the people that we’ve met up with. That’s what this place is, it’s the football and it’s the family and the friends,” he said.
“It’s a big part of my past and I’ve got the joy today of being able to bring my daughter to her very first game at the last game at Taylor Field, so the family experience is just carrying on. Started with my aunt and uncle years ago and now I’m bringing my children.”
While Saskatchewan is finished playing at Taylor Field, a number of amateur football games will still be contested at the Stadium. The Roughriders will play their first game at new Mosaic Stadium in 2017.