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Game days yummier at new stadium

Bombers promise tastier treats

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Investors Group Field plans to serve up bison in the stands as well as on the field this summer.

The $200-million new home of the Winnipeg Football Club and University of Manitoba Bisons plans to sell bison burgers, sushi, shawarma, vegan hotdogs and salads this summer as part of a plan to drag concessions at Bomber games into the 21st century.

According to a newsletter emailed to Blue Bomber season-ticket holders on Tuesday, "two dozen portable and permanent concessions" at the 33,500-seat stadium at the U of M's Fort Garry campus will offer traditional ballpark fare such as popcorn, mini doughnuts, french fries, smokies and Salisbury House nips alongside new menu items such as a "half-pound Blue & Bold burger," grilled chicken breasts, "Mexican casual foods," perogies, pizza, bratwurst and gluten-free options.

While officials with the Winnipeg Football Club declined interview requests, the broad-based menu is intended to erase the memory of the concessions at soon-to-be-demolished Canad Inns Stadium, which was infamous for its lukewarm chocolate, equally tepid smokies and absence of any foodstuff that could be characterized as healthy.

To some football fans, the idea of eating salads on game day will sound like sacrilege. But the reality is fans have been clamouring for improvements to concessions since 1999, when the completion of what's now called Shaw Park proved the spectator-sport experience in Winnipeg should not necessarily consign fans to a plate of stale nachos in a pool of viscous, Dayglo-orange fluid euphemistically known as "nacho cheese."

According to the same Bomber newsletter, the stadium remains under construction, with 13,500 seats yet to be installed, along with 520 out of 1,300 plumbing fixtures and an undisclosed portion of the west-side luxury boxes.

"We continue to work closely with everyone involved in the construction process. This includes regular meetings to revisit the plan in place for completion of our stadium," club spokesman Darren Cameron said in a statement.

The Winnipeg Football Club has already moved into the offices at the front of the new stadium, whose price tag increased by $10 million when BBB Stadium -- the non-profit organization that owns the facility -- ordered up an advertising ribbon board and other additional amenities in 2012.

On Friday, city council's executive policy committee will be asked to approve a change to the way the city refunds entertainment taxes to the Winnipeg Football Club to allow BBB Stadium to pay back a $10-million loan before the club itself repays the province for an $85-million stadium-building loan.

Council must approve the change because of the very rigid nature of the city's funding agreement with the football club, said Phil Sheegl, the city's chief administrative officer and an official with BBB Stadium.

The first paid event planned for the stadium is a Taylor Swift concert slated for Saturday, June 22. The maximum capacity for the concert has not been determined, as city fire officials have yet to issue the venue an occupancy permit. The expectation is Investors Group Field will not be able to host as many fans in a concert configuration as Canad Inns Stadium used to accommodate.

In order to conduct a test run of the new stadium, the Bombers have invited One Heart Winnipeg, a group of 60 churches, to hold a service at Investors Group Field on Sunday, May 26. "At least 15,000 worshippers will come together to help us test everything from parking and concessions to production equipment," the club announced in its newsletter.

Of course, church-goers may not behave precisely like beer-swilling CFL fans. The real test run will come on the first game, whose date will be revealed when the CFL unveils its 2013 schedule.

Canad Inns Stadium, meanwhile, is expected to undergo demolition as soon as the site's new owners, Cadillac Fairview and Shindico Realty, firm up plans to build a Target store at the northwest corner of the stadium site.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2013 A4

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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