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Bomber fans to pick banner honourees

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have turned over the task of customizing the exterior of new Investors Group Field to their fans.

The club revealed Tuesday that they will pay tribute to four former Bomber greats with two-storey-high signs marking each of the four main gates at the new stadium going up on the grounds of the University of Manitoba.

Jeffrey Bannon, the Bombers manager of brand development, said internal discussions to pick which former Bomber greats would get honoured produced such a long list of good choices that the club decided to simply turn the process over to fans.

Fans will be able to vote from a list of 20 nominees that will be posted later today on the Bombers website.

"As we were going through who should be on the list of four, we found that everyone seemed to have a different list," explained Bannon. "It became a great water cooler discussions and so we finally decided we don’t have the right to decide -- let’s let the fans decide.

"We made a list of 10 and decided, no, not good enough. So then it was 12, 14 and finally we decided on a list of 20 names people can choose from."

Bannon said the banners -- which will measure about 20-feet by 8-feet and feature likenesses of each player along with the Investors Group logo and gate number -- will be permanent installations at each gate and will come to represent familiar landmarks for fans to meet up on gameday.

"People will be like, ‘I’ll meet you at Milt (Stegall) or I’ll meet you at Joe (Poplawski). It will be a great place for fans to stop."

Bannon said he got the idea from a visit to the new MetLife Stadium in New York, where each of the gates is branded by a corporate sponsor. "They didn’t pay homage to their history because it’s kind of tough since both the Giants and Jets play there," explained Bannon. "But it’s different here and we have the opportunity to pay homage to such great alumni. We have tons of hall-of-famers that we can pay tribute to."

Fans can vote for up to four players at a time and as often as once a day. Only former players made the list of nominees, and former coaches like Bud Grant and Cal Murphy are conspicuous by their absence.

The 20 nominees are: Greg Battle, Dieter Brock, Doug Brown, Bob Cameron, Tom Clements, Matt Dunigan, Rod Hill, Rick House, Jack Jacobs, Gerry James, Khari Jones, Tyrone Jones, Leo Lewis, James Murphy, Ken Ploen, Joe Poplawski, Willard Reaves, Charlie Roberts, Milt Stegall and Chris Walby.

The Bombers announced the contest on the same day they also announced that their cheerleading team this coming season is going to be coed and involved in a lot more than just dancing and shaking pom-poms.

Borrowing a page from what the University of Manitoba Bisons are already doing and what college football teams in the United States have long done, the new Bombers cheer team is going to include males and females and feature a wide range of athletic stunts, stacks and throws to compliment the dancing that will also still continue on the field during games.

The Bombers have hired some cheer coaches from the Bisons with national and international experience to help guide the transformation.

The club announced it will hold open tryouts for the new cheer team on Apr. 22 at McPhillips Street Station Upper Deck Sports Bar. The tryouts begin at noon and participants must be at least 18 years-old.

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