December 11, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Canad Inns has long been regarded as the loudest stadium in the CFL in which to play -- but you ain't heard nothing yet, says Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke.
"I bet it's going to be pretty loud out there," Burke said Wednesday from behind his new desk inside his sprawling new office at field level of Investors Group Field.
"I think there's going to be a real home-field advantage."
And Burke thinks that might prompt a few opposing players to decide that if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.
"I think once players from other teams see what we've got, I think that will be a good (recruiting) tool."
One of the selling points of the new stadium design was that it is expected to have superb acoustics for an open-air facility, due to a combination of factors that include the below-grade design, the bowl shape of the seating area and the curved canopy that covers 80 per cent of the seats and is expected to help keep sound in.
How all that comes together will begin to become apparent when the new stadium has a soft opening with a mass prayer gathering on May 26 and should come into sharper focus with a pre-season game on June 12 against the Toronto Argos and then a sold-out Taylor Swift concert on June 22.
But all that is expected to pale in comparison with the roar expected on June 27, when the Bombers take the field for their first regular-season game against their longtime division rivals, the Montreal Alouettes.
"That night," said Bombers spokesman Darren Cameron, "is going to be phenomenal in here."
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It's more a swimming pool than a hot tub, although it's also that. And with dimensions of 18 feet long, eight feet wide and five feet deep, diminutive Winnipeg Blue Bombers placekicker Justin Palardy should probably don a lifejacket before he climbs in -- just to be on the safe side.
A massive new tub in the training room of Investors Group Field, which includes a propulsion jet system that creates a strong enough current to hold a swimmer in full stroke in place; an underwater treadmill; and an underwater bike -- is the centrepiece of a new Bombers training facility that head athletic therapist Alain Couture says gives him the very best equipment and technology, not to mention the space, to help keep the Bombers players playing.
"We can be doing treatment on 20 to 30 players a day, three times a day, and managing all these things. We can co-ordinate -- we can have some guys in the tub, some guys doing manual therapy and I'm close enough that I can talk to them while they're in there."
Couture says he knows of just one other CFL team with an underwater treadmill, but he says it's half the size of Winnipeg's and doesn't allow for players to swim in it.
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Winnipeg's players love Investors Group Field -- the massive locker room, a full 1,100 square feet bigger than their last one; the tricked-out training room; an intimate players lounge that includes a kitchen, tables, plush chairs, big-screen TV and computers; and yes, they even like the new 2,200-square-foot weight room.
Put it altogether and the new workplace of this city's professional football team is everything the last one was not -- clean, classy and befitting of professional athletes.
"It's going to give us an advantage, I think. We have more state-of-the- art equipment -- we have an indoor training facility, pool, bigger hot tubs, bigger cold tubs. So it's just going to cut down guys' away time," offensive lineman Steve Morley said.
"It will give you more time to get in the gym and more time to get in your playbook. And everything is brand new. It helps with your psyche too -- coming into a nice place every day. It's going to be an advantage.
"Come game time, you're going to see the results on the field."
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The last time Casey Creehan worked for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- as their linebackers coach back in 2011 -- he held his defensive player meetings in a tiny trailer parked outside old Canad Inns Stadium because there was no suitable space inside.
This season, the incoming new Bombers defensive co-ordinator will hold those meetings in a new 80-seat theatre in the basement of Investors Group Field, with big screens that descend from the ceiling to watch game film and enough audio-visual hookups and technological capacity to launch a space shuttle misson.
And if Creehan wants a more intimate setting -- just a meeting with his secondary for instance? Well, there are lots of smaller conference rooms all over the building, too, complete with much the same tech.
Times have changed in Bomberland.
"The last facility, we always had issues...," said Creehan.
"We'd have meeting rooms where guys had no place to write, which isn't conducive to learning. Here, you have plenty of meeting-room space, everyone has a place to write, it's more professional and will help us get better in the long run."
And all that technology? Well, it means even head coach Tim Burke -- a fiercely proud Luddite -- no longer has any excuses for that big pile of paper on his desk, right?
"I still have excuses," grumbled Burke. "I'm old-school when it comes to that."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 D4