Friday, November 2, 2012

Enemy stadiums far more welcoming


My cousin Owen is part of the long line of Preston Bomber Fans (myself included). 

This year Owen went on an epic journey across Canada to see the Bombers play in every stadium.  What he discovered though was how poorly Bomber fans are treated compared to other fans in the CFL.

He wrote a letter describing his quest and findings and sent it to the Free Press and the Bomber Office.

Free Press picked it up and Gord Sinclair wrote an article that appeared in the paper today...
To read the article published in the Free Press, click here...

Enemy stadiums far more welcoming

Here is Owen's Letter:
A View From The Stands

What a year it’s been in Canad Inns Stadium.  To say that hard times have befallen us is an understatement.  A season full of mismanagement and short sighted decisions has lead to mass confusion and scores of infuriated fans.  This frustration is not mainly due to the on-field performance of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but instead results primarily from the treatment of fans by the team’s management.  In my near decade of being a season ticket holder, I have never experienced the hostility shown by management towards fans than during the 2012 season.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I have been a strong supporter of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football club since early childhood.  I have been a season ticket holder for the past eight years and have continually supported the club by renewing my seats, even after the 5-13 record of 2005 and the 4-14 record of 2010.  Ironically, it’s my love for the Blue and Gold that showed me how bad things are for the fans in the stands.  At the beginning of the 2012 season I decided to follow the team to at least one game in every stadium within the CFL.  With such a strong 2011 season, we were surely going to be contenders for the 100th Grey Cup.  Not only that, our new stadium would undoubtedly put all the other teams’ fields to shame.  Sadly, neither one of these dreams became a reality.  The one thing that did was the realization of just how bad fans in Winnipeg are treated on game day.  To be clear, I am not talking about the players, the coaching staff or the product on the field.  I am speaking directly to how the management team of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers treats the fans within Canad Inns Stadium.  It seems that management has gone out of their way to ensure that Blue Bomber fans have the most uncomfortable time at every Winnipeg home game.  When entering the stadium, fans are met by a security team lined up shoulder-to-shoulder possessing the intimidation factor of the defensive line.  This un-welcoming display is quickly followed with a pat down to ensure that deadly weapons, such as bottles of water or any other outside snacks, do not make it through the front gates.  Once inside, fans are severely restricted as to what they are allowed to do.  Flag waving is not permitted, nor is the ringing of cowbells that are not sold by the Bomber Store.  Those fans looking to enhance their time at the game will be disappointed as the big screen no longer displays the end-of-quarter statistics and most replays have been replaced with commercials.  Those looking for refreshments during the game will have to leave the action on the field behind as snack venders rarely walk down the aisles and beer sales to your seat were discontinued years ago.  The only products that are consistently sold by venders in the aisles are the 50/50 and scratch lottery tickets.  In short, a day at Canad Inns Stadium is an exercise in restricted freedoms.

Game days at Canad Inns Stadium have been in stark contrast to my experiences at every other stadium within the CFL during the 2012 season.  The management of all our rivals seems to understand that the fans come out to games looking to enjoy themselves and they strive to provide this wherever they can.  In most stadiums, fans are welcomed with addition entertainment before entering the front gates.  In BC, Calgary and Hamilton, live bands played to people walking up to the game.  In Edmonton, a play area complete with face painting and a bounce pit was provided for children’s enjoyment.  The management team of the Calgary Stampeders not only set up an autograph alley for the fans, but went so far as to provide port-o-potties in the parking lot for those who like to tailgate.  Pat downs are an exclusive feature to Canad Inns Stadium, as I was not frisked at any other field in Canada.  Inside our opponents’ house, I was treated to a wide variety of foods far beyond that of the standard hamburgers and hotdogs.  Perogies were sold in Saskatchewan, a mock farmers market was set up in Toronto and freshly cooked corn on the cob was available in Hamilton.  The most notable difference at the concession stands was regarding beer sales.  In Canad Inns Stadium, if you would like a beer it must first be poured into a plastic cup before being given to you as management believes beer cans will be used as a projectile weapon.  Unfortunately, this takes time and results in long lines.  In every other stadium, beer is sold to fans in cans as their team’s management trusts fans not to throw their cans into the stands.  Allowing the fans to drink directly from the can helps decrease wait times when purchasing beer and reduces waste.  The experience in the stands further highlights how bad things are in Winnipeg.  In every other stadium, fans are allowed to express themselves.  Flags are flown when touchdowns are scored and cow bells are allowed to be rung.  In Toronto, a brass band complete with a percussion section is allowed to set up in the stands and play whenever the home team scores a point.  In addition to the fan fare, concessions are sold to fans at their seats as every other team’s management understands that if you make things convenient, fans will happy spend their hard earned money to further their game day enjoyment.  A variety of snacks were sold in the aisles of every stadium outside of Winnipeg.  In Toronto, I could by a slurpee from my seat, hotdogs were available in BC and in Calgary, freshly squeezed lemonade and mini-donuts could be purchased from vendors in the aisles.  Many parents who bring their children to Canad Inns Stadium would jump at the chance to buy concessions from their seats as taking kids into the crowed concourse and waiting in lengthy lines can be incredibly stressful.  The biggest shock was that I could buy a beer from the comfort of my own seat in every other stadium in Canada.  Montreal and Hamilton went so far as to sell king cans of beer from the aisles.  It would seem that the management of every other team in the CFL, be they privately or publically owned, understands that if the stadium has a welcoming environment that conveniently provides a variety of concessions, fans are more than willing to pay a bit extra to enhance their game day experience.

If you believe that the hostile environment of Canad Inns Stadium is just a Winnipeg thing, think again.  Take in a Winnipeg Jets or Winnipeg Goldeyes game and you will quickly see how much better fans of these two local teams have it.  I have never been patted down when entering the MTS Centre, be it to see the Manitoba Moose or the Winnipeg Jets.  At Shaw Park, bands are hired to play to fans outside the front gates and a wide variety of food is available in the concourse.  In addition to this, a large selection of concessions and a healthy selection of beer, complete with can, are available for purchase from the comfort of your own seat.

It is a mystery to me why the management team of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers treats their fans with such condescension.  I am at a loss to understand what the fans have done to disserve such hostility.  Does management feel that fans can be treated poorly with little to no repercussions because future ticket sales are seeming assured with most fans wanting to see the new stadium?  If so, what management doesn’t realize is that tickets sales will likely plummet soon after Investors Group Field opens as no one will want to be treated so poorly after game one.  The mismanagement of the new field is already apparent as two proposed opening dates have already been misses and information regarding concessions, parking and game day transportation has been lacking at best.  After seeing how much better every other fan has it in the CFL, not to mention fans of the Goldeyes and Jets, I have begun to question why I would spend my hard earned wages on a game day experience that is so abusive towards the fans.  If significant change to management is not made in November, I see no reason as to why I would renew my tickets for the 2013 season.  No new stadium can make up for the treatment fans have endure over this past season unless a new management team that respects the fans is put into place.  If the board of directors feel that the management of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has done such a good job in this past season, then I would simply share with them this one though:  In 2012, I felt more welcome in the seven stadiums of our opponent’s while wearing the Blue and Gold than I did when sitting in the stands of my home team.

Owen Preston
Section 6A, Row 3, Seat 2

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