Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Keeping Bomber fans happy

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Rowdyism at Winnipeg Blue Bomber games is probably as old as the team itself, but it got out of hand about 40 years ago, putting the safety of fans at risk and generally spoiling the fun for everyone.

By the start of the 1982 season, the majority of fans and management had had enough, so the entire vice squad of the Winnipeg Police Service was called in, along with about 15 uniformed cops, to crack down on fans who were smuggling booze into the games.

When the team decided to build a new, $190-million stadium, however, the gamebook evolved considerably. Now it was no longer just a community-owned team, although it is still that, but a business with a major mortgage. As a result, the team needs every nickel it can fairly squeeze from its fans, so it adopted game-day policies that are fairly common in professional football.

The old policy that allowed patrons to bring in their own food had to go -- particularly since some fans were lugging whole meals into the stadium -- but the ban on bottled water was poorly considered.

The team has since adjusted its policy and fans will now be allowed to fill up on free water. Nor should chewing gum or a chocolate bar be regarded as a threat, except by gatekeepers without basic common sense.

The poor food choices in the old stadium are still a problem, but fans who don't like greasy hamburgers and hotdogs can eat before they arrive for the game, or after. The culinary choices should improve when the new stadium opens next year at the University of Manitoba.

The people who conduct searches also need some lessons in customer service, since fans should not be made to feel like criminals when showing up with a ticket to watch a game.

If the Bombers are to succeed as a business, the team has to make the experience fun, exciting and easy. Too much hassle at the door, lousy food and rude searches are poor business practices for an organization that will be responsible for a $190-million facility.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2012 A12

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