No more cowbell.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have begun informing season ticket holders that a new policy put in place for this coming season -- in anticipation of an eventual move to their new stadium going up on the grounds of the University of Manitoba -- will forbid fans from bringing into the stadium on gameday any "artificial noisemaker."
While a Bombers official said the new prohibition will not include those ubiquitous plastic horns people blow into, the ban will include that staple of any sporting event on the prairies, the cowbell.
And yes, the new ban will include the very same cowbells the Bombers had been selling, until only recently, in the Bomber Store.
Cue the outrage.
"What are people supposed to use their $40 cowbells for now?" asked season ticket holder Jesse Martin, a 25-year-old musician who says he bought his Bombers cowbell just last year to make music of a different kind on gameday. "Just throw them in the garbage I guess, because you can't use them at the stadium now."
Bombers media relations director Darren Cameron confirmed the new policy and issued the following written statement to the Free Press Sunday afternoon:
"These decisions were based on fan safety and gameday atmosphere for all fans. Over the course of last season, we had numerous complaints regarding artificial noisemakers -- cowbells, home made noisemakers, etc. -- that were either excessive in noise or unsafe for some of our patrons. Fan safety and overall gameday enjoyment are of the utmost priority and as we head into 2012 and move into Investors Group Field, our security team concluded some changes had to be made. They consulted a variety of other facilities within our league, the NFL and NCAA, and arrived at these policies. Although we acknowledge it may disappoint some fans, we are confident that even without artificial noisemakers, our fans will make Canad Inns Stadium once again the loudest place in the CFL."
Martin said the fans he's talked to don't have much patience for the idea that other fans were complaining about the noise. "You go to a pro sporting event, you know what to expect. You can sit in the family section. Or if you come on the east side, you know it's going to be a bit rowdier. Most people know what they're coming to."
Cameron was unable to provide a copy of the new policy and said he had not personally seen it. But posts on some Bombers fan sites said fans were being informed the club was also now banning poles of any kind, including the flagpoles the team also used to sell in the Bomber Store.
Also to be strictly enforced this season will be a ban of water bottles of any kind, sealed or not, that have not been purchased inside the stadium.
While the threat to fan safety posed by a cowbell might not be immediately apparent, a Bombers staffer said on Sunday that in an incident last season, a cowbell broke and the "clapper" portion became a projectile.
The controversy surrounding the new cowbell ban will be familiar to curling fans, who were treated to their own cowbell controversy last winter when Saskatchewan fans at the Canada Cup in Cranbrook were ordered by arena security to put away their cowbells and informed the devices had been banned from Canadian Curling Association events.
The Calgary Herald's Allen Cameron reported on the incident at the time, his story immediately went viral and CCA CEO Greg Stremlaw had to quickly issue a statement stating that cowbells were still welcome at curling events and blaming the incident on a misunderstanding and an overzealous security guard.
Bombers kicker Justin Palardy said the ban on noisemakers this season is unfortunate, but he doesn't think it will make much of a difference to the decibel level at Bomber games in any event, especially in the new stadium
"Honestly, there's so many people here and so many sounds, all I hear on the field is a big roar. It's not like you hear just one thing," said Palardy. "And with the things they're doing at the new stadium, I don't think sound is going to be an issue anyway because they say the (canopies) are supposed to keep the sound in."