Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Small glitch at new stadium

About 157 seats have obstructed views

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There's not a bad seat in the house.

OK, make that about 157.

The Winnipeg Football Club, on the verge of jettisoning Canad Inns Stadium for the new 33,000-seat Investors Group Field at the University of Manitoba, is contacting those season-ticket holders to give them the bad news -- their bird's-eye view of the playing field might be partially blocked by either a stair railing or a guardrail.

Most of those seats are in the upper deck where handicapped seating is located and adjacent to the access points -- called vomitories -- to the seating areas.

For the handicapped sections, the front guardrail was raised for safety reasons. In other sections, stair railings partially hinder a spectator's view depending where the play is on the field, but only if they're sitting.

"Every new stadium or new arena built in North America has some obstructed views issues," Buchko said. "They're all to code. We're building a stadium that's to code. We wouldn't get occupancy unless it was code. And that's the challenge. When you have railings based on code, it's caused some obstruction, but we have to build it right, we have to build it safe."

Over the past month, as seats were being installed, Blue Bombers officials have taken affected fans to their new seats to show them the obstruction first-hand. In exchange for staying in the seats, the Bombers have agreed to discount their seats 50 per cent.

"Eighty-five per cent of the people who've sat in the seats said, 'These aren't bad. We'll sit in these seats and we'll gladly take 50 per cent off these seats,' " Buchko said. "They're quite happy to sit in them."

For those not happy, the Bombers have upgraded their seat, but keeping it at the same price they paid for the obstructed seat, he added.

Fin Paterson, the Bomber's vice-president and director of sales, said TV camera perches may also obstruct a view of the game for some fans.

"It's all very subjective," he said. "Some people think it's a challenge and other people say, 'No. I'm good with it.' We've had a high acceptance rate. It's been very positive so far."

The first concert booked for Investors Group Field is Taylor Swift on June 22, just days after the first Bombers exhibition game in the new stadium. Her stage will be in the north end zone and fans will get to their seats via temporary stairs located at points along the main grandstands.

Buchko said the Bombers will run about a half-dozen test events.

There's been some comments on the Blue Bombers forum on obstructed views with most saying the Bombers are doing the right thing by addressing the issue now.

"There are obstructed views in some MTS Centre seats because of handrails. I've sat in them, not a huge deal," one poster said.

Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack should know before the Grey Cup whether he's still employed in 2013, team president Garth Buchko said Monday.

"The team's record overall is disappointing and it's not acceptable and we will review everything in the whole organization, including football operations," Buchko told the media after a quick show-and-tell of the newly installed turf and goal posts at the new Investors Group Field at the University of Manitoba.

"The board and myself will meet and we'll make a decision very shortly. It'll be before the Grey Cup (Nov. 25), for sure."

Mack has been a target of Bomber fans' ire not only because of the team's poor performance this season -- the Bombers were in the Grey Cup last year and dove head-first into the CFL basement this season -- but because of his sacking of head coach Paul LaPolice at the end of August.

Buchko said the Bombers will review Mack's record since he was hired in January 2010 plus look at the stats of the team's players.

"I think we have some great talent," he said. "We have the youngest team in the CFL."

Mack's first year on the job saw a 4-14 season in 2010 and a loss to B.C. in the Grey Cup the next. This year the Bombers have a 5-12 record with one game left.

He added besides Mack's future, the Bombers are reviewing other aspects of its operations as it prepares to move into Investors Group Field next season.

"Everything is under review, our business operations and our football operations, everything is currently under review. We'll put forward our plan very shortly.

"We need to be a better, sustainable business."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2012 C2

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