Friday, October 28, 2016
REMEMBERING TAYLOR FIELD
REGINA - It was a bone-chilling day when Gene Makowsky and other members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders returned to Mosaic Stadium to celebrate winning the 2007 Grey Cup.
About 8,000 fans waited in the stands for their beloved team, despite the cold weather and the fact that it was a Monday.
"They took time off to come greet us coming home and to be able to carry the Grey Cup into the stadium that day was a very special memory,'' recalled Makowsky, who spent 17 seasons with the Riders and holds the team record for the most games played at 284.
Former Riders receiver Matt Dominguez was on that CFL championship team. The Texas native also remembers the chill in the air.
"We came back and it was the best worst day ever. It was the best day because we had just won a championship and it was the worst day because it was probably -30C and we're out there trying to do a parade,'' he said, laughing.
But he also remembers the commitment of the fans that day.
"To go out to Mosaic with the weather the way it was,'' he said. "I was in awe of how many people were there and how cold it was at the same time.''
Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field will host its final game on Saturday before it's torn down and the Riders move to a new, state-of-the-art facility next season.
The stadium originally started as a rugby field in 1910. In 1947, it was named Taylor Field after Piffles Taylor, who had been a player, coach, and executive with the Roughriders. The Mosaic title was added after Mosaic Company bought the naming rights in 2006.
Makowsky, who was born and raised in Saskatchewan, knows it's a special place.
"It's been here over 100 years and that building has had some great games,'' he said. "It's an iconic place where Rider Nation gathers to celebrate their team and their province.''
Among those fans is Reid Isley, who has been going to games at Mosaic Stadium for nearly 40 years. Isley's first game was in 1977 when he was about 13.
The devoted fan went to the 2013 Grey Cup at Mosaic knowing "this was going to be the last hurrah in that grand old stadium.'' On the way into the game, he chatted with some Hamilton Tiger-Cats fans and warned them about the roar of the crowd.
"I just happened to ask them 'Do you really understand what you're about to step into? Oh, yeah, yeah, we've been to lots of games (they said).' I said 'No, but you've never been to a game here ... be prepared boys, you are outnumbered big time and you won't be able to hear yourselves think.'''
Saskatchewan's 45-23 win over Hamilton is one of the top memories for many people.
But there are many more.
The stadium was once home to CFL greats like George Reed and Dave Ridgway. Ron Lancaster emerged as one of the league's top passers at Taylor Field, earning the nickname the Little General for his ability to lead the offence.
There were games where people huddled under tarps in the rain. In the summer, the wooden bench-style seating on the east side could be intensely hot. Of course, there were games in the snow too.
Fans sat through it all.
Makowsky will be at the final game with his three boys. Dominguez will be in the front row. Isley will be there too, with his children.
"I think all of us are kind of excited,'' said Isley. "We've been in the new stadium ... we think that's an absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous facility, but not being able to sit in that old girl and watch the game on that field is going to be different. At the end of the game it's going to be probably somewhat emotional, saying goodbye to it.''