Blue Bomber Report Record: 4–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What it costs to get in the game NHL's presence no bother to Bombers

Football team's ticket, corporate sales ahead of last year's pace

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A church. A snowflake. A goldfish. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers ticket office on Tuesday of this week.

Things that are deathly silent?

You'd think so, wouldn't you? But you'd think wrong.

Even as an entire city of sports fans rejoiced on Tuesday at the news the NHL is finally returning to Winnipeg, the Bombers were actually selling season tickets of their own.

Team officials say that between 11 a.m. on Tuesday -- moments before True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman made the poorest-kept secret in hockey official -- and 2 p.m. on Wednesday, the Bombers sold 83 season-ticket packages.

What's more, the club reports they did not receive a single cancellation -- for tickets or corporate sponsorships -- during that period.

"We've had people lining up," Bombers president Jim Bell said Wednesday. "I asked my staff to inform me after the announcement (Tuesday) -- to give me the good, the bad and the ugly. I want to know everything. But it's been good."

Now, selling less than 100 season-ticket packages in a single 24-hour period is nothing like the pace Chipman is going to have to keep if he is going to meet his lofty goal to sell 13,000 NHL season tickets before June 21.

But given everything else that was occurring in this city on Tuesday, the Bombers' front office is drawing some reassurance from the fact they still did some business even in the eye of that NHL hurricane.

"I'm encouraged not just because people are continuing to buy this year," said Bell, "but it also tells me that with the great announcement of (Tuesday), this community is prepared to support all its professional sports teams."

The timing of the NHL announcement, short and long term, poses challenges for the Bombers. Short term, it came one day before the team opened its rookie training camp and in a coming month when the Bombers' ticket campaign could normally expect a sales bump as the team is front and centre in the local media in preparation for the start of the 2011 season.

Longer term, the NHL announcement comes just as the Bombers are preparing to take on unprecedented debt in the move to a new stadium next season.

But Bell says the club has no hesitation in continuing forward on both fronts. On the ticket front, the team went ahead as scheduled yesterday with an announcement that single-game tickets for the 2011 season are now on sale.

And in the bigger picture, Bell did not hesitate when asked if he would still vote to build a new stadium if that decision was being made today.

"Absolutely, without question. One hundred per cent," Bell said, saying the NHL scenario was contemplated when the team drew up its original business plan for the new stadium.

"We had to know it was a could-be proposition. We took it into consideration. We couldn't put numbers on it. But we knew it was upon us and we had to allow for that -- how the corporate sponsor is going to react and how the season-ticket holder will react and how will the walk-up customer react...

"I've been asked if we feel threatened and the answer is no. The economics have changed in this city and it's been well documented... I do believe there's room to accommodate NHL, CFL and independent baseball in the province of Manitoba."

Perhaps the best news for the Bombers is that they were ahead of the game before Chipman ever walked to the podium. With more than 18,000 season tickets now sold for the 2011 season, Bell said the club has exceeded where it was at this time in 2008, when the team had the advantage of heading into a new season off a Grey Cup appearance the previous November.

Bell said corporate sales are currently also ahead of last year's pace.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Here's a look at how season-ticket prices for Winnipeg's NHL team and the Blue Bombers compare for the upcoming seasons:

Club seats

NHL: $5,805.00

Bombers: $759.95

Next best

NHL: $5,130.00

Bombers: $597.50

Bottom end

NHL: $1,755.00

Bombers: $165.30

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2011 C6

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