Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Bombers: please, please, please don't suck

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Alrighty then.

Being a Winnipegger and a season ticket holder for about 25 years, it's my right and duty to whine.

I acknowledge more things went right Wednesday night than went wrong — the pipes in the men's can didn't freeze, the field lights stayed on and the beer was actually cold — but at the same time, there are a couple of serious kinks that need to addressed, not only for the season opener June 27, but the Taylor Swift concert June 22.

Park and ride: More like park and park. There is nothing more I enjoy than sitting on a crowded bus looking up some guy's armpit. My wife Judy and I thought we were being smart and efficient by leaving the house early and using transit's park and ride at Manitoba Hydro at Taylor and Harrow. A few hundred (if not more) Bombers fans did, too.

The number of people in line was more than transit estimated. Only seven buses were assigned to that location and they quickly filled up, only to be swallowed up in the morass of Pembina Highway at Bishop Grandin and University Crescent. Transit was to add five more buses to deal with the number of waiting fans.

We and few thousand other folks got to our seats about half an hour late. Many others took longer. Way longer. The length of time it took us to drive and take the bus to the game, I could have driven to the cottage at Victoria Beach, unloaded the car, popped a beer and watched it on TV.

To me, the traffic signals at Bishop and Pembina are ineffective to deal not only with the volume of traffic, but the type of traffic: lots and lots of buses.

Police need to direct traffic at that intersection — damn the lights — so  traffic flows more smoothly onto University Crescent. Thought should also be given to turning University Crescent into a one-way street towards the stadium to deal with the bottleneck.

There's also the pedestrian traffic trying to get across Pembina towards Investors Group Field. As the situation is now, it is not safe.

The gate: I recognize the Bombers have a responsibility to deal with loogans

I accept that, but at the same time I've always found the searches and pat-downs as intrusive. I welcome the wands. What I don't like is men in one line and women in another. I understand why the Bombers thought it was a good idea, but how it was played out Wednesday night at the northeast gate we went through was disorganized and unnecessary.

If the Bombers want to separate male and female fans into separate bag-search and wand lines, it has to be properly communicated with signage. It would also be wise to put on more search staff — yes, it costs money — and open up more entrance gates than I saw to speed getting paying customers through.
Frankly, I've seen more organization putting cattle through the chute.

Concessions: Yes, the layout of the stadium, its openness and sightlines are wonderful. Yes, Wednesday night was the first real, actual test. The staff I saw worked extremely hard, were polite and cheerful and in some cases performed above what they're paid.

My only question is whether there's a more efficient way to process sales faster so lineups keep moving so that, like buses, bottlenecks of people do not build up in the concourse. Part of it, too, is fans learning what's what, such as what station they can buy beer or whatever at with minimum waiting. Next game I'm bringing my own peanuts. Call me an outlaw.

Men's can: I do not lament the trough. The washroom I used was clean and efficient. There was no squeezing between two other guys hoping, praying, their aim is true.

My seats: Excellent. Just to have legroom is a joy. A cupholder, too. I no longer sit behind the visitor's bench, I'm closer to the south end zone, but I don't think there's a bad seat in the house.

Press box: Were there people actually working in there? Do they take turns sitting on each other's laps? It looks more like a shipping container with windows cut out by some guy who bought a reciprocating saw on sale, but left the tape measure in the toolbox on the day he fired it up. Ugly. In an otherwise beautiful stadium, the press box is an open sore.

Leaving the game: Because we took the bus, we were prisoners to the end of the game, such as it was.
We found our bus back to Taylor and Harrow quickly enough. The trip down Chancellor Matheson Road towards Pembina was a faster crawl than the way in on University Crescent.

Part of that, I think, was that police were directing traffic instead of leaving it up to traffic signals. Once we turned onto Pembina it didn't take long to get back to Taylor and Harrow, our car and then home on the other side of the city.

If my opinion counts for anything, police who are directing traffic have to be more visible and there has to be more of them. The car, bus and pedestrian traffic is thick and spotting an officer who is not decked out in a reflective yellow jacket isn't easy.

Chancellor Matheson does not have street lights and seeing a police cruiser also isn't easy despite its warning lights, wig wags and light bar activated — there is that much traffic.
Anyway, I never thought I'd say this, but the Bombers need more cops directing traffic in and out. Way more cops.

I'm also considering loading my bike in my trunk and parking at a friend's home in River Heights and cycling in instead of using the bus. That way, I can ride in listening to Bob Irving on the ear buds without the armpits. The start time is 8 p.m., which should give me plenty of time.

Bombers: Despite these complaints and others, everything would be tolerable, even acceptable, if the Bombers didn't suck on the field. You don't lose to the Argos or anyone else on your own turf, even in exhibition, without putting up a fight. Ever.

Somewhere along the line over the past decade the Bombers have found it acceptable to lose at home.

My hope is the new digs puts a fire back in their belly. That's my biggest wish.

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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