Happy New Year, Winnipeg Blue Bombers!
The year 2013 promises to be an auspicious one for the Big Blue regardless of how the team performs on the gridiron, because the new Investors Group Field will open and help put Winnipeg on the map.
Early in the new year, the Bombers staff will leave their longtime home on Maroons Road and settle into their new digs at 315 Chancellor Matheson Rd. on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.
The football club's offices are set to open at the new stadium on Jan. 14, and the Bomber Store will be ready for business there sometime in March.
The new sports shrine is already starting to change the way the city is viewed by musical acts and the promoters of other large-scale events.
U.S. singer-songwriter Taylor Swift's June 22 sold-out appearance at Investors Group Field will be the $190-million stadium's first concert.
With space for just under 33,000 fans, the stadium will be the smallest on the six-time Grammy Award winner's tour, but Winnipeg is the only market of its size to land Swift for a stadium show, said Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of True North Sports and Entertainment, which books concerts at the football field.
Donnelly said Friday that having a new stadium to offer big-time acts makes his job a lot easier. Artists are aware of it, as are sport programmers, he said.
"It plays a huge role. In a lot of cases, it's the deciding factor. They will change routing to accommodate a new building where in other instances they may not even look at a market of that size," he said.
Although he could not divulge details, Donnelly said he's working hard to land a couple of other big-name acts in the new year. "We've got a couple of really significant leads that we're pursuing quite aggressively," he said Friday.
The Blue Bombers will break in the new football field with a June exhibition game, likely before the Swift show. The date and opponent won't be known until late January or sometime in February, when the Canadian Football League releases its 2013 schedule.
It's expected the Blue Bombers will save much of their stadium-opening festivities for the club's first regular-season home game. The CFL typically begins its regular season around Canada Day.
The football club's business plan calls for concert revenue to help repay the non-profit organization's $85-million stadium loan from the province.
Investors Group Field will also be the home of the University of Manitoba Bisons football team and has already been chosen as one of the venues for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, hosted by Canada.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is also touting the new stadium as the future site of an outdoor NHL regular-season game.