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Great outdoors on tap

Winnipeg slated to host 2016 NHL game at new facility

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NEW YORK -- Winnipeg has been targeted by the NHL for an outdoor game and could host a Heritage Classic as early as 2016.

True North chairman Mark Chipman confirmed to the Free Press on Saturday they have been in negotiations with the NHL and they are hopeful an announcement can be made as early as the end of March.

An NHL source says the league is hoping to make a number of outdoor game announcements in the near future and the aim is play a Heritage Classic in Canada in 2014 and 2016.

The Heritage Classic, not to be confused with the Winter Classic, debuted at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium in 2003 and was also played in Calgary's McMahon Stadium in 2011.

Vancouver's BC Place is the likely destination for 2014 and talks are underway to secure a game for Winnipeg in 2016.

An outdoor game in Winnipeg would be played in early March at the newly constructed football stadium, Investors Group Field.

The NHL had originally wanted to bring an outdoor game to Winnipeg next year to be played shortly after the Winter Olympics but construction delays at the new stadium have pushed that date back.

The NHL wants the stadium to host a number of events and have any kinks worked out before it brings the focus of a global audience on Winnipeg.

The stadium will have a football capacity in excess of 33,000 and temporary seating for 7,000 or so will be erected in the south end zone.

The NHL prefers seating for more than 40,000 for its outdoor games.

Next winter will feature the Winter Classic to be played at the University of Michigan between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The league had sold more than 100,000 tickets for the game, which was to be played on New Year's day this season but postponed due to the NHL lockout.

Main tenant

The Blue Bombers, main tenant at the new stadium, had little to say on Saturday.

"At this time we aren't in a position to discuss this," said the club via text message.

Premier Greg Selinger told the Free Press in an interview in late 2012 he'd like to see the Jets host the Minnesota Wild in an outdoor game.

"I think it would be a lot of fun," said Selinger. "I think one of the big things the NHL is going to have to do once they get through this lockout is... rekindle public support for what they're about. And this would be a great way to do it."

Selinger introduced the idea to U.S. business leaders on a recent trip to Minnesota.

"They thought it would be an awesome success," he said.

 

-- with files from Larry Kusch

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 10, 2013 B3

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