Lori-Ann Hildebrandt was of two minds a few weeks ago.
Hildebrandt, who has been the director of stadium transition for the Saskatchewan Roughriders since March of 2015, celebrated with her co-workers when the CFL team moved its operations into new Mosaic Stadium on Feb. 13.
But Hildebrandt also had some regrets. The move meant that her work for the Roughriders is almost complete; her term with the team is to wrap up at the end of 2017.
“It was special to be here when the stadium was empty,” Hildebrandt says as she reflects on her work over the past two years. “You walk around and think, ‘It’s a real privilege to be in this building.’
“For the longest time, especially in the last two months leading up to the move, I was here a lot. I was practically living here. Now I’ve got to share this space; it’s not just my special stadium anymore.”
Hildebrandt has been a key figure in the development of the new facility.
Hired after a stint with the Co-operators Life Insurance Co., she joined the Roughriders at a time when the design of the stadium was 90-per-cent complete and the construction of the building already had started.
She basically was handed the design book and given the reins.
“Missing the fun of getting to be part of the design or making decisions about colours and fabrics was kind of sad,” Hildebrandt says with a smile, “but I got over that and just worried about executing.”
Part of her responsibilities involved working with representatives of the City of Regina to make sure the Roughriders’ space requirements in the new stadium would fit the building.
She also had to learn the ins and outs of construction — a topic that was foreign to her before she started working with the team.
“To be part of something that’s being designed and built, I learned from all those folks who were so great in terms of putting up with all my questions,” Hildebrandt says.
“At the end of the day, projects are projects, so you transfer those project management skills. But for me, being part of this was a big stretch and a great opportunity.”
Hildebrandt can recall some special moments during the construction process, like the day she stood in the northeast section of the stadium and gazed down into the bowl.
Even though she was looking at a large hole in the dirt, she remembers feeling that she was part of a project that was “pretty awesome.”
She still has those moments, especially when she sees the nearly completed product.
“When I wander around (in the football operations area), I tend to get into project management mode and be very detailed and pick apart all the little things that aren’t quite finished yet,” Hildebrandt admits.
“But the best moments are the quiet times when I get to sit with Jeremy (O’Day, the Roughriders’ assistant vice-president of football operations and administration) in the locker room and listen to him talk about what this means to the club. Those are still ‘wow’ moments.
“I get goosebumps every time he talks about the facility because it takes someone like that who has been a player and a part of the administration to understand how special it is to him.”
O’Day was among the club’s employees tasked with designing the Roughriders’ football operations area in the new stadium. The wish list was long, but nearly everything that was on it found its way into the facility.
There are still some tweaks to be done in the Roughriders’ area and in the stadium itself, but the facility is close to being complete. Not surprisingly, Hildebrandt feels a sense of pride when she thinks about what has been accomplished.
“It’s such a landmark for the city,” says Hildebrandt, a Roughriders season-ticket holder since 2004. “You see it when you fly into the city or when you drive up the Lewvan. You can see it from a ways away from different areas of the city. To have it change the landscape of the city is awesome.
“It’s amazing to be part of a project like this for a city I love, a province I love and a football club I love,” she adds. “It’s a great privilege to be part of something like this that is such a legacy project.”
Hildebrandt expects to have another project to oversee by the end of the year. She knows the end date for her time with the Roughriders is approaching — but that won’t make walking away from the stadium project any easier.
“I don’t really want to give back my access card,” she says with a laugh. “I feel like I should be able to have lifetime dibs to walk in and walk around wherever I want. It will be hard to just be another member of the public after I’m done here.”