Attending the 109th Grey Cup a near game-time decision for some football fans

Hundreds of seats at Regina's Mosaic Stadium were empty for the 109th Grey Cup game. (Matt Howard/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Hundreds of seats at Regina's Mosaic Stadium were empty for the 109th Grey Cup game. (Matt Howard/Radio-Canada - image credit)

When Donald Maisonneuve and Marie-Paule Philion began the 28-hour drive to Regina from Ottawa for the Grey Cup last Tuesday, the couple didn't even have tickets to the game.

"The worst-case scenario was that we would have to go to a restaurant, order food and watch the game on the big screen TV," Maisonneuve said, noting they didn't care who won the CFL championship because they're Ottawa Redblacks fans.

However, with hundreds of tickets up for resale — even hours before the CFL championship kicked off — they were able to snag a pair when they arrived in the city on Friday.

Jessie Anton/CBC
Jessie Anton/CBC

Like many Saskatchewan Roughrider season ticket holders who bought tickets to the final two years ago, Deryk Malmgren originally had his seats up for sale.

But after having trouble getting rid of them, both privately and through Ticketmaster, he opted to drive down from Saskatoon and watch the game himself.

"I'm kind of glad we didn't sell them now because we're down here with family and getting together, having a good time," Malmgren said at the outdoor tailgate party before the championship.

The Toronto Argonauts beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23 in the 109th Grey Cup in Regina on Sunday for their first CFL title since 2017.

Matt Howard/Radio-Canada
Matt Howard/Radio-Canada

Other Rider fans, like Dwight Marleau, couldn't say no to attending the Grey Cup — even if his team wasn't in it — so he bought tickets in the nosebleeds.

"It's good enough. I can still see something," he said with a chuckle. "We don't miss Grey Cups — not in Saskatchewan."

Festivities get mixed reviews from fans

Marleau said the pre-game outdoor tailgate party didn't live up to his and his friends' expectations, though he admitted it's hard not to compare this year's Grey Cup festivities to those in 2013 when the Roughriders won the championship.

"It's kind of Mickey Mouse how it's set up this year," he said, noting he would have liked to see tokens used instead of cash to speed up bar lines.

"It was really slow for service."

Jessie Anton/CBC
Jessie Anton/CBC

For some out-of-province football fans, the festivities — such as the team party rooms throughout the REAL District that housed beer gardens, games and live music — exceeded what they had in mind.

"I wasn't expecting to have this much fun," said Cecilia Morrissey, who travelled from Winnipeg with her sister to cheer on the Blue Bombers.

"We have fun at our Bomber games, but this is like next level — it's amazing!"

Volunteers told CBC News an estimated 20,000 fans visited the CFL party rooms on Saturday night, with the Riderville pavilion reaching its 7,000-person capacity by 9 p.m. CST.

Organizers are expected to have more specifics on Grey Cup festival attendee numbers later this week.