This weekend, the Canadian Football League is playing a regular season game in Nova Scotia for the first time in its history.
The matchup between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the host Toronto Argonauts takes place Saturday at 3 p.m. local time at Raymond Field at Acadia University in Wolfville.
Tanya Colburne, director of Destination Acadia, says it will be unlike anything Wolfville has seen before.
“It was really about CFL, ourselves and the city coming together to formalize anything, a traffic and parking plan, and making sure we added benefits and services in and around the community, to make sure the experience is the best it can be for everyone involved,” Colburne said.
“Every little detail you can imagine is in the works as we speak.”
Acadia University had to make some changes to accommodate the number of people watching the game, adding about 8,500 temporary seats at Raymond Field to accommodate about 10,000 fans.
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CFL Chief Operating Officer Duane Vienneau said getting people in and out of Wolfville is a big priority for Touchdown Atlantic.
“Gashing people into a stadium is one thing, getting 10,000 people in and out of Wolfville is another,” Vienneau said.
“We want to make sure we have a good transportation plan, and we want to make sure those we have are coming and going to have a good time.”
A long awaited game
Touchdown Atlantic, a series of Canadian Football League games played in the Maritimes, began in 2005. The games were originally exhibition games, meaning they were not counted in the season regular. This eventually changed to include regular season games.
The first Touchdown Atlantic game took place in June 2005 in Halifax. Another game was scheduled for 2006, but was canceled after the Ottawa Renegades were suspended.
Halifax has not had the opportunity to host Touchdown Atlantic games since then.
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In January 2020, it was announced that Halifax would be able to host its first CFL regular season game for Touchdown Atlantic, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was postponed.
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Vienneau says the timing of ticket sales couldn’t have been worse.
“We put the game on sale on March 10, we sold them out in about a day, and the next day, March 11, the NBA walked off the field with COVID,” Vienneau said.
“This year, when we felt the COVID restrictions were about to be lifted, we jumped on it and restarted our planning.”
In 2022, Nova Scotia was lucky enough to once again host Touchdown Atlantic, but due to construction around the Saint Mary field, organizers had to choose another location.
“We were supposed to play at Saint Mary’s in 2020, but during that two-year window when COVID was more prevalent, they decided to go into construction, so the stadium construction that we were supposed to do was not available,” Vienneau said.
It was then decided that Acadia University’s Raymond Field would host this year’s Touchdown Atlantic.
“When the suggestion came that Acadie would also be a great place to host, the university jumped on it,” Colbourne said.
“We are very grateful and delighted that the timing worked out and we were able to play host for this one.”
Economic impact for Wolfville
Colburne said Wolfville residents should expect a lot of people next week.
“As you can imagine, with this number of people coming into town, hotels, as well as bed and breakfasts, are completely sold out, not just here but in other communities,” Colburne said.
“Businesses should see an influx. Even with the construction of the stadium, businesses saw a significant increase in business. »
Between Thursday and Saturday, Touchdown Atlantic will host several pre-game events.
Family-friendly activities will be offered at Parade Square in downtown Halifax, including face painting, balloon animals and special appearances by Argos and Riders players.
There will also be opportunities to learn to play football at the Garrison Grounds in Halifax on Thursday.
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On weekends, the Riders, Argos, and Atlantic Schooners join forces to throw the “East Coast’s Biggest Block Party.”
According to organizers, the Gray Cup 109 party headquarters will feature live music, DJs, autograph opportunities and food trucks. It will be free for anyone 19 and older, and is expected to kick off the 109th Gray Cup celebrations taking place in Regina this fall.
“We’re trying to create a bit of that festival environment that you see with the Gray Cup,” Vienneau said. “We sometimes call Touchdown Atlantic a mini Gray Cup, so he tries to give a little more of that Gray Cup feeling that you would get at those games.
Saturday is game day and will see a variety of events in the Wolfville area.
The day will begin at 11 a.m. with a tailgate party at the President’s Field, adjacent to Raymond Field in Acadia.
A game ticket is required to attend this event, but for those who were unable to secure a ticket, a Touchdown Atlantic watch party will be available for free, for fans of all ages.
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