CFL Pass

Toronto's loss is Halifax's gain as Touchdown Atlantic, fuelled by Rider Nation, sells out in one day

Amid the silence of football’s off-season in the CFL, news of a mid-season game being sold out in one day at a neutral site is being trumpeted as a major item.

In truth, however, the Argonauts-Saskatchewan Roughriders regular season CFL tilt slated for Huskies Stadium at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax on July 25, ranks as a mere footnote given how capacity for the matchup had been increased to approximately 10,000, roughly the crowd the beleaguered Boatmen attract at their real home at BMO Field.

Not surprisingly, the league is exploring all avenues to attract even more eyeballs for the game, officially dubbed as the 2020 edition of Touchdown Atlantic.

The Argos gave up a home date last year when they played host to Montreal in Moncton, N.B., where no temporary seats were erected. And for the record, last year’s game, held in August, was not sold out.

The crowd for that one was pretty much split down the middle in terms of support.

This year in Halifax, the support will be decidedly in favour of the Green and White.

Saskatchewan is by far the biggest draw in the CFL, which is why more than a handful of people wonder why a game in Toronto featuring the Riders was forfeited for a neutral site when a crowd approaching 20,000 was virtually assured had the Riders played at BMO.

Given its presence in Halifax and how well Rider Nation travels, no one should be surprised to learn how this year’s game has sold out.

A one-and-done Halifax scenario speaks to the drawing power of the Riders and, to some extent, the demand in Atlantic Canada for three-down football.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the response to this year’s Touchdown Atlantic,” commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a prepared statement released by the league. “Our incredible fans from every corner of the country have come together to deliver the league a clear message: That Canadian football has a home in Atlantic Canada.

“We have fans of the Riders and the Argos who are excited to see their teams in action. We have individuals from B.C., who are eager to take in the stunning opposite coast.

“And of course, we have fans and families from across Halifax and throughout Atlantic Canada who are ready to welcome everyone to this beautiful part of the country.”

In fairness, some diehard fans of the Double Blue bought tickets for the July game when tickets went on sale to the public.

Still, a Riders game against the host Argos should have been held at BMO Field.

The Argos are in Regina on July 11, then play in Edmonton before heading east for the Roughriders rematch.

The Argos then return home for a July 31 date versus the reigning Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a team that does not draw well in Toronto.

For those counting, including a July 4 home game against the Stampeders and a return game in Calgary on Aug. 8, the Argos will play a gruelling six consecutive games against Western foes, four of those on the road.

Toronto opens the season June 12 in Ottawa before it unveils its home opener against Hamilton on June 20.
The Argos then get a bye week to prepare for their six pack against the West.

In addition to this year’s Touchdown Atlantic, the game will be preceded by a three-day mini Grey Cup festival, a series of media events and community visits by the Argos and Riders.

Further details will be announced in the coming months.


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