After three home games, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are averaging over 31,000 people at Mosaic Stadium, the most in the CFL
It’s 7,000 fans more than league average – no surprise to Roughriders fans – and a rare sight for a league averaging just 72 per cent capacity.
“Around the league, I think there have to be concerned, and they’re probably perennial concerns, and the trouble spots don’t really change,” said sports columnist Rob Vanstone.
Montreal and Toronto are both averaging less than 20 thousand people at home, BC is barely breaking that mark.
It’s a concern for the CFL.
“I think that’s the biggest issue facing the Roughriders, you know they’re going to be strong. You don’t have to worry about any attendance worries or financial worries, but you need people to play against, and what if some of the weaker markets were to all dry up at once,” sports columnist Rob Vanstone said.
Part of the factor has been increased television ratings, and a change in the way content is consumed. It’s something seen across sports, and led to a dip in gate revenue.
“The so-called man-cave syndrome is becoming a factor, the cord-cutters are becoming a factor. I think things like video games are becoming a factor. It’s a big ask now to invite people to watch your sporting event for three hours,” Vanstone offered.
The Riders weren’t as quick to acquiesce that times may be changing.
“I think these things are cyclical I don’t see it as a sign of a long-term trend,” explained Roughriders Chief Brand Officer Anthony Partipilo.
“If you build a great product, if you have a great entertainment experience for fans, if you support your fans and they support you in that marketplace, regardless of competition, you have to provide the best product that you possibly can, and if you do that, fans will come,” Partipilo continued.
But cycles don’t just flow in one direction. Despite fantastic years in 1981, and 1982 – where the Roughriders sold more tickets than seats in the stadium – the team nearly folded less than a decade later.
“Never say never. It’s a new stadium, there are all sorts of revenues – revenues and sources of money that were once incomprehensible – but I remember 1981 and 1982. That was a real prosperous era, but by 1985 there were 16,000 people in the stands and by 1987 the Riders were having a telethon. So as good as it looks now, you never completely dismiss the possibility that that day could come again,” Vanstone recalled.
Still, the Riders are one of the few teams bucking the trend, something they credit to Mosaic Stadium, and a passionate group of supporters.
“The new Mosaic Stadium is quite an experience. This is like an experience that you’ve never seen before, one of the best stadiums in North America. I think the combination of game entertainment, new stadium, and loyal fans makes for a winning combination,” Partipilo countered.
The Roughriders have yet to post a total sellout this season – the announced sellout against the Alouettes was just 48 seats shy – but at 94 per cent capacity, they’re still among the best in the league.
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