There’s lots to celebrate Saturday if you’re a member of the Rider Nation.
Not only is it Canada’s 150th birthday, but it is the long awaited official opening of Mosaic Stadium.
The Roughriders got a head start thanking their fans on Thursday when they unveiled the fan walls and a tribute statue at the northeast corner of the stadium, but the real celebration will begin as the home field fills up with more than 30,000 members of the Rider faithful.
For the Riders that grew up in Saskatchewan and watched step by step as it was built, the opening of the stadium has special significance.
“I’ve watched from this field that we’re standing on underneath the ground being dug, watched the concrete getting poured where the seats are, it’s amazing,” said offensive lineman Dan Clark, who grew up in Regina and also worked as a welder at times on the stadium.
Offensive linemate Brendon LaBatte agreed.
“Last year, to be a member of the team that played the final season at the old one and then to be part of the first team to open up this one, that’s definitely something you get a little bit of pride about,” said Weyburn’s Brendon LaBatte.
The enormity of the day for the fans and the players isn’t lost on the Riders head coach Chris Jones who said the facility being built and the pride the fans have in it is a big reason why he’s in Saskatchewan today.
“You only get one opportunity to do something like (opening a stadium) … and that’s why we came here. We left Edmonton eight days after we won the grey cup for this reason, we got a building and people care about football enough to put their money behind it and build it. Football is important here.”
And so is winning, perhaps even more so than this historic event, if you ask receiver Rob Bagg.
“It’s a great moment in Riderville’s history but people I do believe they care more about winning than they do about having a nice shiny building, so that’s what we’re focused on,” he said.
There was some doubt that the fan favourite would be ready to play in the game Saturda as Bagg was battling an ankle injury, but said he’s ready to go and can’t wait.
“It’s very exciting. It’s a celebration with Canada Day across the country, but certainly in the province of Saskatchewan we’ve got a beautiful, beautiful new facility here and just looking around every day at practice, it still takes my breath away,” Bagg said.