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Transportation, concessions flow smoothly for Bombers opener

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Bike valet Bill Newman (right) takes care of fans bikes as Winnipeggers arrive at Investors Group Field Thursday night.

JESSICA BURTNICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Bike valet Bill Newman (right) takes care of fans bikes as Winnipeggers arrive at Investors Group Field Thursday night. Photo Store

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 had been at Investors Group Field since 10 a.m.

Nothing seemed to go right at the exhibition game here two weeks ago but that was not the case Thursday afternoon and evening, where it was expected over 33,000 giddy fans would pour into the new stadium.

The only obvious problem area remained 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.

 

Concessions

The Problem: There weren’t enough concessions open and those that were, were simply overwhelmed; line-ups were so long, they didn’t appear to move.

The Solution: Bomber management blamed the long line-ups 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 tonight.

The concourse was packed with excited fans, which made it difficult to maneuvre. Roy thought the crowds and wait times could be reduced if the line-ups are reconfigured.

 

Bicycles

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 line-ups 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 practicing 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."

 

Parking

The Problem: Access to parking was painfully slow, with long line-ups.

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 credited 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 to 7:15.

Some people managed to park without paying. Rachel Shoquet said she managed to get a free parking spot at Tavern United on Pembina. She said parking outside of the stadium is much easier for her.

 

Traffic Getting To The Stadium

The Problem: Not enough transit buses; buses stuck in a kilometre-long line-up on University Crescent; bottle-necks 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 and University Crescent was smooth, even with the large number of cars coming through.

Police directed the traffic as far back as Bishop Grandin 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 p.m.

Passengers on a Transit 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," Kaplonski said.

Cathy and Randy Kelly took a park n ride from St. Vital arena. "It was awesome," Cathy Kelly said, adding they'll likely do it again.

"I think we'll have to because it's just hard to find parking," Randy Kelly said.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

JESSICA BURTNICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bomber fans make some last-minute purchases at the Bomber Store at Investors Group Field before the game starts.

History

Updated on Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 6:43 PM CDT: Adds quote.

7:20 PM: Adds info, photo from bike valet station, corrects street name.

7:51 PM: adds slideshow.

9:54 PM: full writethru.

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