IN the upper deck on the east side, Felise Coutu wasn't in the nosebleed section -- she was in her glory.
"It's a better view," said Coutu, who's had Bomber season tickets since 2011. Last year in Canad Inns Stadium, she had seats in the north end zone, with her back to the "big" screen -- a fraction of the size of the new Investors Group Field's two Jumbotrons -- both 9 by 37 metres. "This year I can see both," said the 27-year-old, at the game with her husband.
Without the enormous HD screens, the sightlines are still better than the old stadium, said Coutu who now feels closer to the action on the field. The cupholders are a comfort, said the woman who has seen and felt more drinks spilled than she cares to remember. Now there's space for drinks as well as derri®res. "It's roomier, comfier."
The old stadium will always have a special place in her heart -- she and her fianc© had their engagement photos taken there in 2012. The new facility has swept her off her feet.
"It's impressive -- I think it's awesome."
DOWNSTAIRS, on the lower deck, fans were impressed by the intimacy of the setting -- of being nearer to the game they love.
"It's breathtaking," said Nathan Seager, sitting near the 20-yard line in the last row of the lower deck on the west side.
"There's a better view and you're closer to the players and the action," said the 24-year-old, watching the players warm up before the game.
The Blue fan who has had season tickets for a few years said the new facility offers a better overall experience. The Bombers promised larger seats and 50 per cent more legroom and Seager said they've delivered.
"There's lots more legroom -- more breathing room." He wore a shiny silver cowbell around his neck and was ready to cheer for his team and its new home.
"Now we have a real stadium," said Seager, who got to the game early by riding his bike and avoiding traffic snarls. "The old stadium was getting run down -- it was getting old."
FOR the first time in Winnipeg Blue Bomber history, squeals of delight could be heard from women entering the bathroom at a home game.
"There's so many toilets!" said one woman before christening a brand new toilet.
On Wednesday, women who endured long lines for limited restroom facilities finally got their share of washrooms.
There are 45 per cent more washrooms than the old Canad Inns Stadium offered. The Investors Group Field has a total of 28 washrooms: 14 for the men and 14 for the women, on both sides and every level.
"There are more stalls," marvelled Eva Driedger. The dark, dank commodes at Canad Inns seem like a primitive past compared to the soothing neutral tones and lighting of the new stadium's restrooms.
"It was dark -- this is light and bright," said Driedger
"Compared to the old one, it's awesome," said Corinne Robinson. "It's cleaner and there's hot water." Hand washers no longer have to run their hands under a trickle of ice water.
In the men's room, the trough urinals are gone, replaced by single units with dividers.
Most weren't complaining. Except one: "I will miss the trough," said Nathan Seager, who appreciated its expediency in getting people back to their seats to watch the game.
"A trough is a very efficient way of moving the lines."
FOOTBALL fans may not have liked what they saw on the turf at Investors Group Field Wednesday night but at least their taste buds went home happy.
The beer was cold, the hotdogs came with all the fixings and if the lineups were long, they didn't stay that way for more than a few minutes.
Sure, there are a few kinks to iron out -- make sure the hamburgers are cooked all the way through, please -- but Bombers fans were generally very happy with the food and beverage concessions at the first-ever football game at the new field.
"It's the best facility I've ever been at for beer," said Rick Krupa, as he sipped on a frosty brew in the first quarter.
"I love it," echoed Cindy Rose. "We were in and out of the line in 30 seconds."
Terry Genik thought the service was about the same as in the old Canad Inns Stadium, but the 10-year season ticket holder is confident it's only going to get better.
"They're still working through the processes. For the first night, it's better than I expected," he said, cradling a box carrying two Cheese Nips and fries with gravy from Salisbury House and a beer.
The ability to watch the game while waiting in line in the main concourse was the biggest improvement from the old stadium, according to a completely unscientific poll taken by the Free Press.
"I absolutely love the setup," said Joanna Wiebe, a casual fan who takes in a couple of games a year. "The fact that you can stand here with your friends and have a beer with the game right in front of you is fantastic. I think (the stadium) was designed very well. It's being received really well, too. Everyone is excited."
Andy Brown, a former Winnipegger who is back in town visiting from Kitchener-Waterloo, agreed.
He said he was in and out of the beer lineup in two minutes and he didn't miss a second of the action on the turf.
"There's two Jumbotrons and the field all within eyeshot. This is hands-down the best stadium in the CFL for concessions," he said, rhyming off Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa as facilities Winnipeg has left in the dust.
Perhaps the biggest crowd gathered in front of the Rum Hut. The old thatched-roof hut has been replaced by a full-time concession area, but the good-times vibe remains the same.
"It was a wooden crate with plastic sheeting on it. This is way better," said Tyson Ducharme, a Rum Hut regular. "I think I'm going to stand here all season. Maybe if they added a little bamboo it would be better. This is like going to a social. I imagine they'll get faster with the beer pouring."
-- Compiled by Carol Sanders and Geoff Kirbyson