WADE Miller is eager to get clearance to have fans in the stands at IG Field, especially with confirmation Monday that the 2021 CFL season will begin Aug. 5, but he’s not yet ready to share his plans until he does.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to — there’s nothing the Winnipeg Football Club’s president and CEO would want more than to see a full stadium this summer and be able to tell you all about it — it’s that he needs to be patient. Not one to be willing to wait for answers, Miller understands he’s not the one calling the shots when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and is respectful of the workload currently put on the province’s health officials.
"The third wave of the virus started a little late for us in this province," Miller said in an interview with the Free Press. "We’re going to hold on until the middle of July to confirm the attendance that we’re able to have for our first August game. And then provide the details at that point with how we’re going to roll that out."
By that time, given Manitoba’s re-opening strategy, if at least 70 per cent of all Manitobans age 12 and above have received their first vaccine and at least 25 per cent have received their second, then that would permit "25 per cent or greater opening capacity for businesses, services and facilities, as well as increased gathering sizes with restrictions for some sectors."
CFL games would certainly fall into that category but it remains unclear just how many fans might be permitted to attend games at that time. The number could very well be increased beyond the 25 per cent since IG Field isn’t an enclosed space, lowering the odds of transmitting the virus.
Another milestone date has been set for August long weekend — the weekend before the CFL is set to begin playing. Under Manitoba’s plan, if 75 per cent of Manitobans age 12 and above have received their first vaccine and 50 per cent have received their second, that number rises to at least 50 per cent capacity, with the possibility of going even higher.
There is another way to increase the number of fans at games and that would be making it mandatory to have both vaccinations in order to attend. With the way numbers are trending, there would be more than enough people eligible to pack the 33,000-person facility by August.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said Monday the league wouldn’t be involved in those decisions and that it’s up to the teams to decide, likely in consultation with provincial health officers. The Bombers have been mulling the idea, given the third wave of the virus arrived late to Manitoba and the need to have as many butts in seats to counter the losses that will likely be accrued this season, but Miller isn’t willing to commit one way or another.
There’s still plenty of work, including ensuring players safely arrive for training camp in early July, so that’s where his focus is for now.
It’s also in mid-July that season-ticket holders will be contacted to select their seats for the first three home games. Other season-ticket holders that opted not to renew the last couple years while the CFL was put on hold, will also be contacted.
Season tickets and mini packs are ready for purchase, with single-game tickets for August available in late July.
"Today was a great step forward for the league and we’re going to be back on the field for August," Miller said. "Just can’t wait for our players to show up in July for training camp and get back talking about football rather than talking about when we’re going to be playing football."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.