Security lines were long and Blue Bomber hospitality staff were out in numbers at last night’s home game, as stadium security rooted through patrons’ bags in search of food, alcohol and the dreaded bottled water.
Winnipeg Football Club CEO Garth Buchko was also out among the masses in an effort, he said, to make entry procedures run smoothly and to speak with fans who may be irked about the stadium’s new food and beverage policy.
"I’ve talked to over 40 fans, including people carrying baby bags -- 100 per cent satisfaction. There are going to be people that are not happy. I talked to one person who said ‘we’re not the NFL. Quit comparing us to the NFL.’ I gave him my business card and we’ll have coffee next week. That’s what we’re here for, to speak to the fans," Buchko said.
Season-ticket holders Connie Graham and Gerry Desmarais are among the many critics of the new policy, which bans fans from taking outside food and drink inside the stadium.
They said they are skeptical about the 10 new purified-water coolers that have been installed following the public outcry.
"We’ll see how convenient they are and how soon they run out of water," Desmarais said.
"And paying $3 for a 10 cent bottle of water is just wrong. We go through three or four a game. That’s too expensive," Graham added.
Loyal Bombers fan Dan Cassils said he wants Winnipeggers to quit picking on the organization and start cheering on the boys in blue and gold.
"I don’t like the negativity around the football club. We live in this day and age where we have to check. Security is security. People know the regulations, so why are they getting upset when they bring these things and get turned away?" Cassils said.
"Let’s focus on the Bombers and get them back in the race here. If they were 5 and 2, we wouldn’t be splitting hair about some water."
Lance Laufer, a season-ticket holder for 15 years, said he doesn’t blame the organization for implementing strict rules, but instead blames the loyal fans for following them.
"If they said we had to wear pink shorts to come and watch football, there would be 23,000 fans who would probably wear pink shorts. They know they have people who enjoy the game. As long as they have people who will cheer, they can make these rules."
Still, Laufner had practical concerns regarding the new food and beverage policy.
"What’s going to happen at Banjo Bowl when Roughriders fans come wearing the hollowed out watermelons on their heads? Does that count?"