With each and every passing year the branding of the CIS continues, along with programs within it. It's becoming more and more evident that university athletics in Canada is moving more towards the NCAA mentality than the homegrown ways from the days of yore. With the new athletic season approaching taking a look into the Laurier Football program alone reveals the new attitude that continues to take hold, as they prepare for their upcoming Homecoming Weekend.
The Laurier fanbase has always been a pretty strong unit, providing the second largest turnout ever for a Vanier Cup in 1991 versus Mount Allison (30,191). Recently however, likely thanks to the growth of the school itself (over 11,000 students now), the attendance has steadily increased. This past season Laurier was in the top 5 for overall attendance for home games for the CIS Football schools. Already a full weekend event with concerts and comedy shows (this year Russel Peters!!), the attendance of Laurier's Homecoming is becoming far more serious as well. Last season set a record for WLU's largest game attendance in University Stadium history at 9,347. And this may be one of a couple reasons why it may be important to purchase your tickets ahead of time this year...
For the first time the beer tents around the field will have a capacity limit to them it appears. If you by your Homecoming ticket online it only costs $3 for entrance to the beer tent, there will be beer tent tickets on sale on gameday itself as well but at $5. It will be nice to have a guarantee to and from the beer tent considering the growing lines of the past few years, however I hope they open up more sections as well so as not to limit too many people.
While it's a risky move with the beer tent, as it could possibly turn some people away should they not know ahead of time, it seems in line with the changing nature of the program. This goes along with putting the finishing touches on the stadium upgrade, a revamped Athletics website, limiting fan interaction within the field of play (no more running around the track after TD's at University Stadium), and the new jerseys that are coming this season as well. Maybe it should serve as a warning to the rest of the OUA that the Hawks do mean business, and they're ready to truly show it. The overall feel of the football program appears a bit more professional with every passing year right now, saying goodbye to the amateur grassroots aspects of a Laurier home game, slowly but surely being phased out. But across the OUA I have noticed this trend recently, a movement towards a more professional legitimacy, so maybe it should really be serving as warning to the programs who refuse to keep up with the trend.
Part of me - the part that once ran 10 drunken laps around University Stadium in a Homecoming game against U of T, and brought a spray painted couch on wheels down to McMaster to serve as seating - wishes this movement would be halted and wouldn't be allowed to take place. But another part of me is excited to see more and more CIS programs brand themselves in a more professional light, pushing the bar to be among the elite Athletic programs across the country.
Whatever way you feel about it though if you're in Waterloo on the 2oth of September to watch the Lancers battle the Hawks, you may want to purchase your tickets in advance, it's gonna be a party y'all!