Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Test event a success: Bombers

Sunday's service at stadium 'went very well'

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Blue Bombers players Chris Kowalczuk and Chris Greaves pose for a photo with a fan at the first event held at Investors Group Field. About 15,000 people attended One Heart Winnipeg Sunday afternoon.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Blue Bombers players Chris Kowalczuk and Chris Greaves pose for a photo with a fan at the first event held at Investors Group Field. About 15,000 people attended One Heart Winnipeg Sunday afternoon. Photo Store

The toilets flushed, the soda poured and the ticket readers beeped.

From these most basic of metrics, the debut of Investors Group Field was a success on Sunday.

About 15,000 people took in the fourth annual One Heart Winnipeg, a multi-denominational Christian service that doubled as a dry run for the $200-million football stadium that is the new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"The One Heart test event went very well from our perspective," said Bombers spokesperson Darren Cameron. "As planned, it was a great opportunity to test most major elements of Investors Group Field, from parking to ticketing, security, volunteers and overall facilities. We were also extremely pleased with the enthusiasm and co-operation of churches and attendees and thank them for playing such an important role in helping us open our new facility."

'Every building, whether it's a mall, a hotel, an office tower or an arena or stadium, there will be something that won't work or happen like you thought it would'

-- Kevin Donnelly

While some local residents complained about the influx of traffic in their neighbourhood, Cameron said about 75 per cent of designated on-campus parking lots were full with both incoming and outgoing traffic working "quite smoothly."

Cameron said the team is in the process of compiling the many suggestions passed on after One Heart wrapped up. Two of them included having change tables in some of the washrooms and more signage in front of Gate 1 directing cyclists to the main bike valet at the north gate.

"We think things went well even without the full-scale event-day plan in place. Of course, it will be in place for game days including full security and transportation options," Cameron said.

Toby McCrae, a Winnipegger who took in One Heart, said it had a "wonderful vibe."

"Our tickets got scanned, people greeted us and we knew where to find a seat. Parking was no problem. There were parking marshals who directed us. We parked near St. Paul's College, hopped across the way and booted it on in there," she said.

This kind of test event is crucial in ensuring a facility is ready when it counts, said Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president with True North Sports & Entertainment.

The day before the MTS Centre had its first advertised event on Nov. 14, 2004 -- a concert featuring Tom Cochrane, Burton Cummings, Fred Penner and Chantal Kreviazuk, among others -- he booked Harlequin to play for about 5,000 friends and family of True North employees and construction workers and tradespeople.

"Every building, whether it's a mall, a hotel, an office tower or an arena or stadium, there will be something that won't work or happen like you thought it would," said Donnelly.

"We had doors swinging in the wrong direction. You can't fix all the deficiencies in the 24 hours that we had but you can put up a sign or a staff person in a certain area saying, 'watch your step here until we can get the carpet guys back to fix a wrinkle.'"

Everybody in attendance that night got a free pop and a hotdog, which gave the concessions a chance to test their capacity.

"Nothing moves food like offering it for free. We had to put some pressure on these systems to make sure they work when a paid audience is putting pressure on them," he said.

Cameron said not all of the stadium's signage is up yet but it will be before the Bombers take to the field for the first time.

"We are looking forward to doing even further fine-tuning in advance of the pre-season game on June 12," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2013 B1

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Updated on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 6:33 AM CDT: replaces photo

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