Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New crowd plan for Taylor Swift get-together

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TAYLOR Swift fans worried about never, ever getting to Investors Group Field will be comforted to hear there's a new event-day plan for the first concert held at Winnipeg's new football stadium.

Approximately 31,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday's Swift concert at Investors Group Field, the $200-million new home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and University of Manitoba Bisons.

The venue's June 12 opening, a Bomber exhibition game that attracted 28,628 fans, was marred by lengthy transit-service delays and severe traffic congestion on the main arteries leading into the U of M's Fort Garry campus.

On Saturday, fans heading to the Taylor Swift concert can arrive more than four hours ahead of time instead of 90 minutes before the event begins, according to an amended event-day plan expected to be unveiled today or Thursday by the Bombers and concert promoter True North Sports & Entertainment.

Transit service will be beefed up to include park-and-ride options, which are part of the Bombers' game-day plan but previously were not planned for the Swift concert.

The amended game-day plan grew out of meetings during the past week involving the football club, True North, the university, Winnipeg Transit, the Winnipeg Police Service, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and city communications officers, among other officials.

"There's been great progress in a collaborative setting with all the people involved," said Kevin Donnelly, True North's senior vice-president and general manager. "There was no finger-pointing and many good ideas came forward. Immediate changes have been determined and will be made.

"We've had good, productive sessions over the past six days and hopefully people will see and appreciate the improvements."

While the logistics of getting tens of thousands of people to and from any new venue are challenging, the event-day plan for the first Bomber home game was complicated by rush-hour traffic.

The Taylor Swift concert has the advantage of being held on a Saturday, when traffic volumes along Pembina Highway are modest and the U of M's Fort Garry campus is relatively empty.

The management of the U of M traffic and parking lots will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, four-and-a-half hours before the concert's 6:30 p.m. start.

The public is welcome on the U of M campus even earlier should they wish, said John Danakas, the university's communications and marketing director. "We're open to the public Saturdays and Sundays," he said. "Technically, someone can come on the campus at noon."

That should not be necessary. After issuing a transportation survey to all Taylor Swift ticketholders Monday, True North has gathered what Donnelly describes as a "reasonable snapshot" of the parking, transit and drop-off demands for the show. Roughly 20 per cent of ticket-holders responded within 18 hours, Donnelly said.

Winnipeg Transit, which initially was asked to add 12 buses to its regular Saturday service, will be offering park-and-ride options, Donnelly said. Tweaks to the event-day traffic management will be made.

He said the information gleaned from the survey will help True North plan for the Aug. 12 Paul McCartney concert. So will the actual operation of the event-day plan this Saturday.

"Like before, the best intentions are being brought forward. Until you see it happen, you won't know how right and how not right you are," he said.

True North will not be involved in future Bomber games. The Winnipeg Football Club, which declined to comment Tuesday, is expected to amend its plans for its June 27 season-opening CFL game at the stadium.

The U of M has already made one change: Casual parking for university students and staff will be made available on game days, Danakas said.

Previously, only staff and students with parking permits could access stalls on the university campus on game days.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2013 B1

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Updated on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 8:19 AM CDT: adds sidebar

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