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Kickoff Run opens big day for Bomber fans

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It’s first and goal for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Kickoff Run.

The six-day event, an Olympic torch style relay comprised of team alumni and fan volunteers running with a CFL football to help celebrate the opening of Investors Group Field and a new era of the Blue Bombers, is in Winnipeg this morning.

The relay run got underway inside the city limits with a small ceremony at the Legislative grounds, with special messages of well wishes from Premier Greg Selinger, Mayor Sam Katz and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon.

Winnipeg officially opens its new $200-million stadium when they take on the Montreal Alouettes tonight (8 p.m., TSN, 680 CJOB).

After taking the ball from longtime season ticket hold Mary Kelekis, Katz started the Winnipeg portion of the run with a jog originating near the spot that the Bombers first called home (Osborne Stadium). The mayor offered some advice to those making their first visit to the new stadium tonight: prepare to be blown away.

"For those of you who have had the opportunity to view Investors Group Field, you know what a phenomenal place it is," he said. "For those who haven’t, you are going to be totally wowed this evening."

Cohon continued his on-going message of the "modern CFL" — believing events like the community-centric relay run is what the league is all about — and congratulated everyone involved in the stadium project.

Selinger, meanwhile, was already looking forward to the on-field product.

"We’re going to have a great football team," he said in the shadow of the Grey Cup (which was on hand for Winnipeg's Kickoff kickoff. "I looked at the sports pages this morning. Some of those guys look in pretty good shape."

The relay run travels to the old Canad Inns Stadium site this morning (the football is expected to arrive at 10:30 a.m.) before winding its way through River Heights and down Pembina Highway this afternoon. The football is expected to arrive at Investors Group Field at approximately 3 p.m. and the final leg of the run will be a part of a opening ceremony this evening.

The club has been tight-lipped on who will run the ball into Investors Group Field.

A reminder for fans: gates open at 5 p.m. and the pregame festivities are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

The Kickoff Run started in Portage la Prairie June 22 and has made its way through Brandon, Morden, Winkler, Altona, Steinbach, Gimli and Selkirk already. Over 400 runners — many longtime season ticket holders who hold the history of the Bombers in the community — have taken part.

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