It's tough to write about my favourite place in Winnipeg when that place is slated for the wrecking ball, but to me, there is no place I'd rather be (especially on a warm summer evening) than "Bomber Stadium." This may not be a place revered, like Fenway Park or Lambeau Field. It's not in a beautiful setting, like Empire Stadium. It is, however, functional, fun, and a place of long lasting memories.
As we prepare to say goodbye later this week (for real this time), I am reminded of all of the glory I have witnessed there since my father took me to my first Blue Bomber game in 1976. To this day, any time time I smell cigar smoke it transports me back to my youth and the west side concourse. Some readers will recall that there was a baseball stadium attached to the south side of the stadium (now offices) where the Winnipeg Whips used to play. This is also where my young friends and I sat (really far from the action) and watched the Bombers in the Salisbury House Section for only $1. Back in those days there was no upper deck on the east side. Prior to the current seats (put in 13 years ago) we used to sit on cold metal benches -- although many fans brought seats along (with backs) to attach.
This is where I watched my heroes: Brock, Poplawski, Clements, Jones and Kennerd. The '80s were glorious times in Bomberville. It seemed like they never lost a home game, and in fact they won 16 straight home games from 1983 to 1985. One night, prior to a playoff game in 1986, my Crusader football team had to clear the snow off the field from midnight to 3 a.m. It was not fun at the time, but it provided more great memories of the stadium for me.
And who could forget the first ever Grey Cup game there in 1991? A veteran Sports Illustrated reporter referred to it as "quite simply the best sporting event he had ever attended." The wind chill was a balmy -35 C, making it the coldest Grey Cup ever. That didn't faze the 52,000 fans who came out for the first national football party on Keystone soil.
Perhaps the greatest performance I have ever witnessed on a football field took place on July 14, 1994 when Bombers quarterback Matt Dunnigan threw for 713 yards. On that night I witnessed an aerial assault that may never be surpassed in professional football.
But the stadium is not just about football. Many events have been held there over the years. Two of the best I saw were the Rolling Stones and U2. I will always remember the opening ceremonies of the glorious Pan Am Games, and the raucous/jingoistic crowds at the beach volleyball medal rounds.
Male readers will no doubt miss the troughs, but both genders will also recall the washrooms as a great place to warm up during playoff games.
The Bombers (and their stadium) are a part of the reason my young family and I moved back to Winnipeg after 10 years in B.C. and Alberta.
It may be called Canad Inns Stadium or, previously, and more boring/officially, as Winnipeg Stadium. But to me it will always be known as Bomber Stadium. It is hard to say goodbye to you, old friend, I will cherish my memories of you forever. You may be gone soon, but for many Winnipeggers, you will never be forgotten. One last thing -- the west side rules!
Derek Rolstone is the human resources director at TransX Group of Companies. He has attended more than 200 Bombers games and is the first Manitoban to ever appear on Jeopardy.
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