This weekend, the Canadian Football League is playing a regular-season game in Nova Scotia for the first time in its history.
Tanya Colburne, director for Destination Acadia, says this will be unlike anything Wolfville has seen before.
“It really has been a matter of the CFL, ourselves, and the town coming together to formalize anything from a traffic and parking plan, and ensuring we have added benefits and services in and around the community, to make sure the experience is the best it can be for all involved,” Colburne said.
“Every little detail you can imagine is in the works as we speak.”
Acadia University has had to make some changes to accommodate the number of people watching the game, adding around 8,500 temporary seats to Raymond Field to hold around 10,000 fans.
Duane Vienneau, chief operating officer for the CFL, said getting people in and out of Wolfville is a big priority for Touchdown Atlantic.
“Cramming 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 who we have is coming and going to have an enjoyable time.”
A long overdue game
Touchdown Atlantic, a series of Canadian Football League games played in the Maritimes, started back in 2005. The games were originally exhibition matches, meaning they were not counted toward the regular season. This eventually changed to include regular-season games.
The first Touchdown Atlantic game was played in June 2005 in Halifax. Another game was scheduled in 2006, but was cancelled after the suspension of the Ottawa Renegades.
Halifax has not had the opportunity to host any Touchdown Atlantic games since then.
In January 2020, it was announced that Halifax would be able to host its first regular-season CFL game for Touchdown Atlantic, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed.
Vienneau says the timing for ticket sales could not have been worse.
“We went on sale with the game on March 10, we sold them out in about a day, and the next day, March 11, the NBA walked off the court with COVID,” Vienneau said.
“This year when we felt like COVID restrictions were about to be lifted, we jumped right back on it and restarted our planning.”
In 2022, Nova Scotia got the chance to be the host of Touchdown Atlantic again, but due to the construction around Saint Mary’s field, organizers had to choose another location.
“We were supposed to play at Saint Mary’s in 2020, but during that two-year window that COVID was more prevalent, they decided to embark on some construction, so the stadium buildout we needed to do wasn’t available,” Vienneau said.
That’s when it was decided Acadia University’s Raymond Field would be the host of this year’s Touchdown Atlantic.
“When the suggestion came that Acadia would be a great venue to host as well, the university jumped at it,” Colbourne said.
“We’re very grateful and very thrilled 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 in the next week.
“As you can imagine, with that amount of people coming to town, hotels, as well as bed-and-breakfasts, are completely sold out, not only here but other communities,” Colburne said.
“Businesses should see an influx. Even with the buildout of the stadium, businesses have seen a significant amount of increased business.”
Between Thursday and Saturday, Touchdown Atlantic will be hosting several events in the lead-up to the game.
Family-friendly activities will be found at Parade Square in downtown Halifax, including face painting, balloon animals, and special appearances from Argos’ and Riders’ players.
There will also be chances to learn how to play football at the Garrison Grounds in Halifax on Thursday.
On the weekend, the Riders, Argos, and Atlantic Schooners are joining forces to bring the “biggest block party on the East Coast.”
The Grey Cup 109 Party Headquarters will bring live music, DJs, autograph opportunities, and food trucks, according to the organizers. It will be free to attend for anyone aged 19 and older, and it is set to kickstart celebrations of the 109th Grey Cup being hosted in Regina this fall.
“We’re trying to create a little bit of that festival environment you see with the Grey Cup,” Vienneau said. “We sometimes call Touchdown Atlantic a mini-Grey Cup, so it’s trying to give a little more of that Grey Cup feeling you would get at those games.”
Saturday is gameday, and will see a variety of events in the Wolfville area.
The day will start at 11 a.m. with a tailgate party at President’s Field, adjacent to Raymond Field at Acadia.
A game ticket is required to enter this event, but for those who were not able to secure a ticket, a Touchdown Atlantic watch party will be available for free, for fans of all ages.
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