Students, police and bylaw prepare for the return of the Panda Game at TD Place

With the return of the Panda Game, Ottawa’s big boisterous tradition to bring thousands of university students together, police and bylaw will be on high alert to keep fans safe from COVID-19 and to prevent out of control partying.

The Carleton Ravens and University of Ottawa Gee-Gees are going head-to-head, for a chance to earn the capital’s football bragging rights.

For uOttawa student Daniel Hardie, it’s an overdue tradition.

"It’s going to be my first one after a couple years here so I’m looking forward to it," says Hardie. "There’s going to be lots of energy. I think the football teams will have a lot of people behind them and I’m sure they’re going to have a great performance."

The landmark event dates back to 1955. After a nearly four-decade hiatus, the game was revived in 2013 when Carleton University resumed their football program.

The Panda Game on Saturday at TD Place is a return to a normal 'university life' for Christina Giovanniello.

"All the students reunite together and we just like celebrate," she says. "We get to cheer on our school and the football boys."

Tickets for the game at TD Place sold out quickly, with an expected 15,000 people in the stands. All fans must provide proof of full vaccination to enter the game.

If recent out-of-control student parties, like in Kingston, London and Halifax are any indicator of what the day could hold, thousands could be celebrating in the streets, and authorities are prepared.

An increased number of police and bylaw enforcement officers will be at Lansdowne Park and in several neighbourhoods close to universities, like Sandy Hill, to keep the panda-monium to a minimum.

"We want to make sure this is as little disruption to the neighbourhood," says Michael Lalonde, a public information officer with Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services. "We just want to make sure that we are on the same page (as students) so that in the event that we do go out to a big party it can be pretty costly.”

A noise violation, which has been a common problem at previous Panda Game parties, will cost $490. In 2019, officers responded to more than 100 complaints in neighbourhoods, including noise, as well as public intoxication and social disorder.

Ultimately, officials want this healthy rivalry to be just that. Under Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions, indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people and 100 people outside. Police are prepared to fine those who break the rules, and the price is $880.

In order to help limit raucous parties from spilling into the streets and the mess they leave behind, uOttawa, along with community partners and the city of Ottawa, will host a tailgate party in the parking lot of the Sandy Hill Arena starting Saturday at 9 a.m.

Anyone who’s fully vaccinated can attend. It’s bring your own drinks for anyone over those 19 years old and up. There will be live music, free beaver tails as well as a free shuttle service to and from TD Place.

Carleton University will also be providing a shuttle from their campus and OC Transpo is offering free transportation to ticket holders.

The Panda Game kicks off at 12 p.m. Saturday at TD Place. If you don't have tickets to the game, you can catch all the action on TSN 1200.