Not your typical preseason game

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:19 AM ET

Rick LeLacheur’s idea was rejected out of hand.

“I wanted them to walk over from Clarke Park in their full uniforms like they’ve been doing all week at camp. I thought it would be great to have them walk down through the stands and the 30,000-plus fans we expect,” said the Eskimos president and CEO of the unusually large preseason crowd expected.

Marketing and media relations man Dave Jamieson seconded the idea.

“I thought that would have been neat. But sometimes the people in football operations don’t have a sense of humour.”

Or a sense of stage.

What we’re dealing with here is not your average, normal run-of-the-mill, ho-hum pre-season football game between the Calgary Stampeders and Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.

For starters, the place is a construction site. Fans used to walking around to the other side of the stadium on the south side will have to take the trek on the north side. Members of the Green & Gold club have been divided in half and accommodated in either the Jackie Parker Room on the west side or the newly created Quarterback Club on the east side.

Photogs left outside

Photographers will have no indoor location from where to transmit their pictures and will file, instead, from an outdoor setup in “the moat” (most fans probably aren’t aware that there is a moat behind the Eskimos bench, constructed for the Edmonton 2001 World Track & Field Championships here to move runners to the starting line for the 100-metres without notice).

Post-game media interviews will be conducted on the field.

There’s all sorts of adjustments like that.

But those aren’t the main logistical problems involving the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time stadium featuring about $115 million in improvements.

The main logistical challenge involves the Eskimos themselves.

The Stampeders will be able to use the visitors dressing rooms with only minor inconveniences but the Eskimos will dress, as they have throughout training camp, at Clarke.

They’ll do their pre warm-up, running pass routes, etc. at Clarke as well. They’ll then bus over to the big stadium and sit in a glorified tent called a Sprung structure which should accommodate everybody if they pretend they’re sardines and do alternate breathing.

If it’s too hot or uncomfortable, they’ll be allowed to sit outside.

Should they require a pre-game upchuck or a halftime tinkle, they’ll have to do it in a porta-potty setup on the sidelines.

“Busing over in our full uniforms and sitting in a little room in the end zone is going to feel a little like high school,” laughed Ricky Ray.

“The crowd might even get to hear the coach yell at us at halftime,” added the quarterback, who seems to view the whole experience as an excellent adventure.

Coach Richie Hall admits it’s a different deal.

“We’re playing at home but we’re travelling to some degree,” he said. “We’re taking a bus and we’re not coming back at halftime.We’re warming up at Clarke and then going to the main field. It’s kind of like the swimmers in the side pool at the Olympics getting wet and warmed up before their race.”

New turf

The game also features the world debut of the new state-of-the-art FieldTurf Durispine Pro, which only the NFL New England Patriots and CFL Eskimos have installed for this season with executives of the company coming out for the occasion.

Because of the new turf, Hall is going to give veterans more time than usual in a first game to get comfortable on it.

In charge of making it all work is equipment manager Dwayne Mandrusiak, the only person who could consider it routine. It’s his third time!

Mandrusiak goes back to 1978 when the Eskimos moved into Commonwealth Stadium in the first place.

“It was the same situation back then. We dressed in old Clarke Stadium and shuttled over as well. The only difference was that we got to sit on fold-up chairs in the dressing room. It was still a construction site but they cleaned it up. There were no showers or anything. There was concrete on the floor. It was like an unfinished basement.”

And the other time?

“The Heritage Classic,” he said of being in charge of Wayne Gretzky and the Mega Stars dressing at Clarke.

“The only difference is that they had skate guards on.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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