Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Down... set... here we go, Blue fans

Home opener shaping up to be a grand party

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The Grey Cup, accompanied by Bomber mascot Buzz, visited Selkirk on Wednesday.

JESSICA BURTNICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The Grey Cup, accompanied by Bomber mascot Buzz, visited Selkirk on Wednesday. Photo Store

If today's Winnipeg Blue Bombers' home opener is beginning to look a lot like the Grey Cup -- and a little like a U.S. college game -- then the team's off-field plan is working to perfection.

There's going to be skydivers jumping out of planes, a 12-member pep band, buskers at each gate, inflatable bouncers for the kids, video messages from celebrities and former players and an extended halftime to allow for Manitoba-born rocker Tom Cochrane to strut his stuff.

Oh yeah, and the Grey Cup will be in attendance, too.

The game is even going to be shown south of the border on the NBC Sports Network.

Jerry Maslowsky, the Bombers' vice-president of marketing and brand development, said football fans will know a major event is going on long before they've walked into the stadium and taken their seats in Investors Group Field.

"We're treating this as an international event. All eyes will be focused on Winnipeg and this stadium," he said.

"It's our Grey Cup. This is about pride and it's our chance to showcase our great city, our stadium and our talent to the whole world. We know the game is certainly important, but it's just once in a lifetime that you get to open up a major facility. We think it's a very important time in Winnipeg's and Manitoba's history."

Arguably the most popular guest at the game will be the Grey Cup, which has been travelling around the province as part of the Kickoff Run. It has been to Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Morden, Winkler, Altona, Steinbach, Gimli and Selkirk. (The final football hand-off will be made to a special guest runner outside the stadium as part of the opening ceremonies. The runner's identity won't be known until then.)

The symbol of CFL excellence will be located beside the Blue Bombers store in the south end and will be available for pictures with fans.

The team will also be handing out 33,500 rally towels for fans to shake over their heads during the game.

"We're getting hyped. It will be no different than a Grey Cup. When we go live, we'll have everybody as pumped up as possible," he said.

The gates at Investors Group Field will open at 5 p.m. today, two-and-a-half hours before the opening ceremonies. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.

Former Bomber Chris Walby and actress Laura Lussier will co-host the opening ceremonies.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2013 A4

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Updated on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 7:03 AM CDT: replaces photo, formats text, adds fact box

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