When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers play their first home game of the 2012 season on July 26, I’ve got a song suggestion for them to play just before kick off: “The Waiting” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
For Winnipeg football fans eager to enjoy the Investors Group Field, waiting continues to be the hardest part. Despite the club’s best attempt to celebrate the last ever game at Canad Inns Stadium last season—all but guaranteeing that the team would play games at the new stadium in 2012—poor weather conditions proved too hard to overcome.
The Bombers have now pushed the grand opening of IGF until 2013, while construction continues on site. The delay also forces the Bison football operations to hold off their plans for the stadium as well.
Despite the disappointment, let’s break down the pros and cons of delaying the grand opening of Investors Group Field.
100% complete for grand opening
One of the biggest perks of holding off on opening the stadium mid-season is that when the stadium opens officially next season it will be game-ready with all the fancy bells and whistles in place and ready to go.
Many Jets fans may recall seeing some remaining renovation work still in progress in the 300-level early last season. While some wet paint during a renovation is hardly a distraction, you wouldn’t want your first experiences at a brand new stadium to be in a nearly completed state.
With a grand opening of this scale, you would want everything in place, and no glaring shortcomings to distract you from taking in the moment. In that way, starting the 2013 season with a big grand opening shindig should please fans who have been forced to wait for longer than expected.
Another opportunity for storybook ending at CanadInns
If the Bombers had beaten the BC Lions in last season’s championship game, they could have presumably christened the new stadium with a Grey Cup celebration.
Now that the stadium will not be ready until 2013, the team has been granted a perfect opportunity to officially cap their time at Winnipeg Stadium on a high note by making it back to—and finally winning—the Grey Cup.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. It doesn’t help that the team has been hampered by several key injuries and are off to an incredibly poor start, but there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.
In fact, there’s no better example of a team overcoming a slow start than the very Lions team that beat the Bombers in the 2011 Grey Cup. The Lions didn’t pick up their first win until week six against Saskatchewan, and the team just clicked from then on and dominated the remainder of the season.
Obviously the 2012 Bombers and the 2011 Lions have different strengths and shortcomings, but what the 2011 Lions example proves is that it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish.
Making the transition from one stadium to a new one is always going to be a massive undertaking, especially when you’re an organization that’s trying to satisfy over 20,000 loyal season ticket holders.
But when that transition is put on hold—after season ticket holders already paid for their IGF seats—there’s bound to be frustrated customers.
For 1,200 fans, a year’s worth of season tickets in their old seats at CanadInns are more expensive than the seats they had already paid for at IGF stadium. As such, the delayed grand opening of the new stadium meant that they were now expected to pay the price difference between their seats.
Joe Eade was one of those 1,200 season ticket holders affected. Having received his revised invoice in the mail, He contacted the Bombers and a club representative gave him three options: pay the remaining balance on his account, get a refund and forfeit his season tickets or call a lawyer.
Eade used the following analogy to express his frustration:
“If I were to have booked a flight in March—a coach seat at an airline—and I showed up for the flight in July and the airline said to me ‘you know what, there’s no more coach seats on this flight, so we’re bumping you up to first class. But, you have to give us $100 or your not flying.’ No airline would ever do that.”
Eade says that as a die-hard Bomber fan, he does not want to lose his season ticket holder status and will likely pay the difference.
The club may have ultimately made the right decision to give the construction crews more time, but in hindsight they probably should have made a concrete decision before accepting any seat deposits.
The 2012 schedule
When the Bombers went about setting up their 2012 schedule with the CFL head offices, they did so with the plan to play their first regular season home game on July 26 at Investors Group Field.
This meant the Bombers would have to hit the road for the first four games of the season. A four game road trip at any point in the season is a long time to be away from the comfort and familiarity of playing at home, let alone at the start the season.
After starting the season 0-3, their best-case scenario is to head into their home opener with a 1-3 record. That’s quite the turn of events for a team that went 7-1 through the first half of last season. The Bombers must find a way to right the ship if they expect to make the playoffs in 2012.
Effect on Bisons and University
It comes as no surprise that Bison head coach Brian Dobie and the entire Bison football staff and team are eagerly anticipating moving into their new home on campus. Having talked with Dobie numerous times on the subject, I know that he’s willing to patiently wait as long as he needs to.
But for the players and fans looking forward to taking in the comforts of a brand new stadium, returning to University Stadium for one more year will be quite the downgrade.
Then again, what’s one more season at University Stadium when a palace awaits?