BYLINE: Kevin MitchellSaskatoon Star Phoenix
SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Roughriders are kicking around the idea of bringing a CFL exhibition game to Saskatoon.
It's a possibility, Roughriders' general manager Brendan Taman said Tuesday, but far from a certainty.
"I think it's a tough row to hoe quickly, but we're going to keep pursuing it and see where it goes. We're not going to give up on the idea," Taman said Tuesday following a press-conference in Saskatoon called to announce the signings of former University of Saskatchewan Huskies' football players Scott McHenry and Pat Neufeld.
Taman, a Saskatoon native, said the Roughriders' board has told him they want the team to have more of a Saskatoon presence. They're moving training camp to the U of S campus this year, and Tuesday's press conference at a local mall was another indication that they're bulking up their presence in Saskatoon.
The city hosted pre-season CFL games between the Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers every year from 1988 to 1991 at Gordie Howe Bowl, but none have been here since.
"It's not going to happen this year," Taman said. "Saskatoon's got so many things going on here this year that I don't like the odds of that. But maybe in the next year or two, you never know.
"(Saskatoon) probably deserves one. They've talked about getting their own team so I don't think an exhibition is too far of a stretch. But it's challenging because of the variables involved."
Taman stresses that the Roughriders don't want to lose their traditional pre-season home date at Regina's Mosaic Stadium, so an exhibition game in Saskatoon would likely have to come through some kind of arrangement with another CFL team.
They'd also have to get CFL approval, and figure out how to cram more seating into Griffiths Stadium. The stadium currently seats just over 6,000 and drew a team-record 9,033 onlookers this past season during a game against the Regina Rams. They put 12,567 onlookers into both temporary and existing bleachers for the 2006 Vanier Cup.
"The big issue is trying to get seating at Griffiths," Taman said. "They're pretty protective of that track (which encircles the playing surface), and that's a problem in getting a number of seats in there without affecting the track. They were able to move it around for the Vanier, but a lot of work is involved with an exhibition game. It would take a lot to put it in place quickly, so you'll need a lot of planning and a lot of co-operation from a lot of different people.
"I don't know if it will happen. But the board wants a big presence up here, and it's something we're going to look into. Our home game will probably still be in Regina, but I think they're trying to get creative, get some other team's ideas and look at it that way."