Smack dab in the middle of Hockey Country, in the midst of a wickedly cold and snowy winter, the RedBlacks are proving that there is a huge appetite for football in the Ottawa area.
With more than three months until their first home game at TD Place -- part of the magnificently spruced-up Lansdowne Park project -- the RedBlacks have already sold more than 14,000 season tickets.
"Fourteen thousand is another great milestone and in my mind, there are so many milestones ahead," said OSEG president of sports Jeff Hunt. "We continue to get tremendous traction and interest. It's really amazing.
"When you think about it, we're trying to sell football tickets in the height of hockey season -- in unseasonably bad weather. So you'd think we'd be a long way from people's minds. When we've seen nicer weather, we've seen a spike in activities.
"We're ahead of where we thought we'd be. I had been saying we hoped for 15,000 season tickets as a stretch goal. But 12,000 was kind of what we thought we might be happy with. I have a feeling 15,000 is in our not-too-distant future. And it makes me wonder how far we can go."
Sales of three-game mini packs have also been brisk. For as little as $69, you can get the mini pack, which includes a ticket to the July 18 home-opener (against the Toronto Argos) and two additional games. The team won't start selling single-game tickets until late June or early July.
On the football side, the RedBlacks will hold a two-day mini camp in Richmond, Va. Wednesday and Thursday. They will begin training camp May 31 at Carleton University.
Look for the team uniforms to be introduced sometime around May 10.
The team unveiled its stadium food menu Monday, announcing a partnership with Levy Restaurants -- and fans are in for a treat.
It starts with the Create Your Own Caesar cart. Food items include the RedBlacks Dog -- a premium hot dog topped with 14-hour smoked brisket, pulled pork sliders, garlic parmesan fries, a barbecued rib and duck wing combo platter and lobster mac and cheese. There's a heavy slant on local ingredients, including St-Albert grilled cheese.
"We want to have our concessions as something people will talk about in a positive way," said Hunt. "There's an association with stadium pricing that people look at as a bit of a negative. We're hoping we can change that. It's never going to be street prices. But we want concessions to be something people put in the asset column."
Things are coming along together nicely at the stadium. The wooden veil structure will soon be completed.
"Some stuff, you don't really notice, but the veil catches the eye. It's dramatic," said Hunt. "When I see people, the first question they ask is, 'How's the stadium coming along? I just say, 'It's great. We're on time.' For a year and a half, it's been the same boring answer."
It seems like so long ago that the nuisance that was the Friends of Lansdowne delayed construction of the stadium development -- and the return of Ottawa to the CFL. Seems like smooth sailing now.
"Knock on wood, but I'm delighted with the way things are going," said Hunt. "I'm overwhelmed by the reaction to the team. There's a real buzz in town. The Senators are still playing and people are talking about football."