Excitement was in the air at Richardson Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023, as fans of all ages packed the stadium for the first regular-season Queen’s football game of the school year. Hundreds of people gathered in the stadium’s north end for the official opening of the new Lang Pavilion. The pavilion, which includes enhanced fitness facilities for the team as well as the Bob McFarlane Family Plaza — a courtyard with expanded concessions and viewing areas — is the final piece of the stadium’s multi-million-dollar revitalization project.
After the new Richardson Stadium opened in September of 2016 following an extensive renovation project, the university’s Athletics and Recreation Department worked hard to secure donations to complete the pavilion, which formally connects the east and west sides of the facility. In total, Queen’s received support from over 300 donors to make the pavilion a reality.
On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of alumni and their families gathered in the pavilion to celebrate its grand opening. Ann Tierney, Queen’s University’s Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, remarked on the important role the new facility will play: “Richardson Stadium has been an integral part of Queen’s University for more than a century, and the Lang Pavilion will ensure this premier facility will remain a focal point of both Queen’s and our broader community for generations to come,” she said.
Also on hand for Saturday’s grand opening was Stu Lang, who, along with his wife Kim, was one of the project’s lead donors. In an interview with Kingstonist following the opening ceremonies, Lang noted the stadium now has a feeling of completion. “It was always a little odd to see the stadium sort of half complete… Every time you went, [you’d think] there’s got to be something at the end,” he said. Along with members of the Red Banner Society, a group made up of Queen’s football alumni, Lang worked to help secure the necessary funding to bring the pavilion to fruition.
After years of hard work, Lang said the new facility is “phenomenal,” remarking, “It’s great. It’s like the cherry on top of the cake. It just finished off the stadium so well.”
The former Canadian Football League (CFL) wide receiver and USports head coach has been a major supporter of the Gaels throughout the entire Richardson Stadium revitalization campaign. In recognition of the Langs’ contributions to the project — which included a $10 million pledge in 2014 to help build the new stadium — the university honoured them by placing their names atop the new facility.
On having his name attached to the space, Lang said, “It’s nice because Queen’s football was such a big part of my life. I was drafted in my final year here, and I went to the Edmonton Eskimos, so I had some great memories [of Queen’s]. It’s nice to have a name that just brings back all the memories. I left my heart here; now I have my name here.”
Over the years, Richardson Stadium has had a number of different incarnations, many of which Lang has played or coached at. With the new pavilion now finished, the former Guelph Gryphons head coach said the stadium should be able to connect all members of the Queen’s community. “They built it with a walkway around [the concourse], so it’s very much a community type of game… There are great areas for students to mill about and meet each other,” Lang said of the facility which plays host to thousands of students, alumni, and members of the broader community during every football game.
Gaels come up short against rival Mustangs
While the opening of the Lang Pavilion brought out dignitaries, alumni, and other VIPs to Richardson Stadium, a near-capacity crowd of 8,082 were on hand to watch the Queen’s Gaels football team take on their arch-rivals the Western Mustangs in their third game of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) regular season.
Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Gaels were looking for a solid performance on home turf, after trouncing the University of Toronto (UofT) Varsity Blues 42-9 the previous weekend. Having dropped their first game of the season against the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, the Gaels had their sights set on beating the Mustangs for the first time since 2012 to give themselves an early-season winning record.
Western opened the scoring in the first quarter, as Brayden Misseri picked up a 16-yard pass from quarterback Evan Hillock to secure the first touchdown of the game. Queen’s would finally answer back in the second quarter, with Nathan Falconi catching an impressive 52-yard pass from Gaels quarterback and Kingston native Alex Vreeken. After a pair of last-minute field goals to end the second quarter, the Mustangs held a narrow lead of 15-11 going into halftime.
After a close first half, the Mustangs started to extend their lead in the third quarter after Jackson Findlay intercepted a throw by Vreeken and ran 95 yards uninterrupted to score a touchdown, which put Western up 22-11.
The Gaels would score their second touchdown of the contest as Anthony Soles completed a three-yard run with just 28 seconds remaining in the third quarter, cutting the Mustangs’ lead to seven at 25-18 with just one quarter to go.
After a back-and-forth battle throughout much of the fourth quarter, Western would concede a strategic safety with 2:13 remaining, forcing Queen’s to start deep in their own territory. The Gaels attempted to take the lead as the clock wound down, and with less than a minute to go, Russell Weir completed a one-yard run to give Queen’s a narrow 27-25 lead.
With Queen’s fans celebrating what felt like an imminent win, Western quickly erased any hope for a Gaels victory, as Savaughn Magnaye-Jones picked up a 55-yard pass from Hillock, giving the Mustangs a five-point lead with seconds remaining. With the Gaels unable to respond, Western went on to win 32-27.
Despite the tough loss, Queen’s head coach Steve Snyder was quick to note his team is more than capable of going the distance this season. “We have a dangerous football team, I know that. I think we’re a good football team. We’re just going to keep getting better and better and try to eliminate the ‘beat yourself’ mistakes,” he said. As for what specifically he would like to see the team improve on before the next game, Snyder said the team needs to focus on elements that are “in [their] control.”
Quarterback Alex Vreeken noted that despite the Gaels’ 1-2 record to start the season, the team is improving as needed every week. “We’ve got some stuff that we have to clean up,” he said, “but really, at this point, we’ve proven that we can play with anyone in the conference, and it’s really just us versus us. If we play our best football, we’re going to have a chance to do some special things here.”
With some pundits expecting the Gaels and Mustangs to eventually meet again in the OUA playoffs, Queen’s linebacker Olivier Muembi described Saturday’s game as a learning experience. “We wanted to win that game,” he said. “That would have been pretty special. But now we know what to expect if we do see [Western] in the Yates Cup again or [elsewhere] in the playoffs. We know they’re beatable, and we know we are the better football team.”
This coming weekend, the Gaels will hit the road for the first of two consecutive away games. Queen’s heads to Windsor to take on the University of Windsor Lancers at 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 23; they then meet the York Lancers in North York on Saturday, September 30 at 1 p.m.
The Gaels’ next home game is Friday, October 6 at 6 p.m. at Richardson Stadium, as they face the Carleton Ravens.