The second time was the charm. Opening night for the Blue Bombers at their new home was a success.
Traffic flowed into the University of Manitoba campus.
Parking was a charm.
All the concession stands were open and wait times were reasonable.
Even the Transit plan worked.
"It just took people a second time to get it right," said Kenny Boyce, the City of Winnipeg event manager who'd been at Investors Group Field since 10 a.m. Thursday.
Nothing seemed to go right at the exhibition game here two weeks ago, but that was not the case Thursday afternoon and evening, where more than 33,000 giddy fans poured into the new stadium.
The only obvious problem area remained with the space allocated for cyclists. Boyce said he expects the entry-and-exit problems will diminish with time, as Bomber fans hone their game-day plans.
- The problem: There weren't enough concessions open and those that were, were simply overwhelmed; lineups were so long, they didn't appear to move.
- The solution: Bomber management blamed the long lineups on the fact that a quarter of the concession staff were stuck in traffic and couldn't get to work on time. Cleaning up the traffic problems should improve the concession problems.
- Did it work? "It took us seven minutes to get beers and food," Danielle Roy said.
Rob Galka was at the stadium two weeks ago but found little to complain about Thursday night.
The concourse was packed with excited fans, which made it difficult to manoeuvre.
Roy thought the crowds and wait times could be reduced if the lineups are reconfigured.
- The problem: Not enough spaces for the number of bikes.
- The solution: The number of bike spots has been increased to 650 spots from 400.
- Did it work? Not much better than it did the first time.
"They added 250 extra spots but it won't be enough," Terry Crawford predicted an hour before game time. He was right.
A new bike-valet station was set up right off University Crescent, but it wasn't enough. Cyclists who arrived after 7 p.m. were reduced to chaining their bikes to ramp railings or a nearby fence.
There were lineups to get into the bike areas, which prompted many riders to chain their bikes nearby.
Crawford and others who rode to the game said the alternative transportation is a good idea.
"We've been practising the big bike adventure -- they were looking forward to it as much as the game," said Ryan Kastes, who biked to the stadium from St. Vital with his son, Kade Kastes, and Kade's friend, Peyton Allard. "So long as the weather is nice, we'll definitely do this again."
- The problem: Access to parking was painfully slow, with long lineups.
- The solution: The football club doubled the number of parking attendants and signage for the lots it controls; to speed up traffic flow, parking-pass holders had to display their passes on rear-view mirrors. More private businesses will offer parking along Pembina Highway.
- Did it work? Parking at the stadium went as well as the traffic to the stadium.
Event-day supervisor Kumar Goolia attributed the fast parking to both organizers and attendees getting more used to the stadium.
"I think we're getting the hang of it," Goolia said.
"It seems to be moving a hell of a lot faster than (the last game)," he said.
Parking was available at many places outside of the stadium, too, including on University Crescent, ranging in price from $10 to $20 per spot.
Cynthia, an ImPark employee selling parking spots at the intersection of Pembina Highway and Plaza Drive, said business was busier than last week's concert, but not as busy as the exhibition game. She said she sold about 50 passes from when she started at 4:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Some people managed to park without paying. Rachel Shoquet said she got a free parking spot at Tavern United on Pembina. She said parking outside of the stadium is much easier for her.
Traffic to the stadium
- The problem: Not enough transit buses; buses stuck in a kilometre-long lineup on University Crescent; bottlenecks at Pembina Highway intersections.
- The solution: Winnipeg Transit provided 196 buses -- 80 transit buses and 116 school buses; dedicated bus lanes on University Crescent and Bishop Grandin Boulevard; more police were on hand to direct traffic, giving stadium-bound buses priority over other vehicles.
- Did it work? Traffic on both Chancellor Matheson Road and University Crescent was smooth, even with the large number of cars coming through.
Police directed the traffic as far back as Bishop Grandin Boulevard at Pembina Highway, and at the two entrance points at University Crescent and Chancellor Matheson.
University Crescent, which had a lane reversal put in to allow two full lanes of incoming traffic as well as a dedicated bus lane, stayed smooth throughout the evening. Chancellor Matheson stayed similarly smooth, and was almost completely empty by 7:20.
Passengers on a school bus from Garden City Shopping Centre cheered when they pulled up in front of the stadium.
"It didn't take as long as I thought it would," said Melissa Funk of Anola.
Brian Kaplonski, who attended the exhibition game as well as the recent Taylor Swift concert, said he could notice a difference in the way parking and traffic were managed.
"Compared to the last game it's like night and day. It's a major improvement," he said.
Cathy and Randy Kelly took a park-and-ride from the St. Vital arena.
"It was awesome," Cathy said, adding they'll likely do it again.
How was your trip to and from the stadium for the Bombers’ season opener? Join the conversation in the comments below.