They were 300 strong but -- and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' brass must consider this their first blessing of 2010 -- they were not wielding torches, pointy sticks and Molotov cocktails.

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This article was published 7/4/2010 (4431 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A large contingent of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' faithful showed up in their Blue and Gold glory at the fan forum Wednesday.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

A large contingent of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' faithful showed up in their Blue and Gold glory at the fan forum Wednesday.

They were 300 strong but -- and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' brass must consider this their first blessing of 2010 -- they were not wielding torches, pointy sticks and Molotov cocktails.

Just hours removed from reporting an operating loss of $1.2 million for 2009 and still desperately trying to put last season's nightmare behind them, the Bombers held their annual fan forum Wednesday night at the Blue and Gold Room to a full house of their diehards, 35 members of the alumni and current players.

And if anyone expected the vitriol and anger from '09 to carry over, it was squelched by the message new head coach Paul LaPolice and GM Joe Mack delivered about the upcoming campaign -- the 80th in the team's history -- a passionate video vignette by former Bomber Nick Miller and the announcement shovels will be in the ground at the new stadium site at the University of Manitoba on May 21 with a tentative completion date of March 1, 2012.

"Any time you meet people who are passionate about the Bombers it makes you feel comfortable," said LaPolice afterward. "That's what's neat about this community... the teams in the West Division have a passion for the game. I love the comments by Nick Miller (in the video). When you get to be part of an organization you love hearing about the history."

New Blue head coach Paul LaPolice acknowledges applause from fans at their annual open forum.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

New Blue head coach Paul LaPolice acknowledges applause from fans at their annual open forum.

The Bombers' brain trust opened the floor to questions afterward and, not surprisingly, the first was about the state of the team's quarterbacking and interest in free agent Buck Pierce. Reports continue to swirl that the Bombers and the former B.C. Lions starter are negotiating, but Mack was saying little afterward.

"I don't want to get into negotiations in the media because that can be counterproductive," said Mack. "I will tell you that there's nothing we have to announce right now and there's nothing imminent. Could something change? Sure. But at this point it's an ongoing process.

"I do think with regard to the quarterback situation we're going to bring certain aspects to a focal point within the next week to 10 days. I don't see any reason to have it drag on for too long. They and we probably need to say, 'Where is this process evolving? And if it's not going to work out then do we to start to look in another direction.' "

Meanwhile, Mack and LaPolice have both spoken to last year's opening-day starter -- Stefan LeFors -- about his desire to retire from the game rather than play for the $90,000 reduced-rate contract he swallowed halfway through last year.

"I think it was a very difficult year for a lot of players but particularly for Stefan," said Mack. "There's no animosity or anything toward him, I think it was just a very difficult year for him and we're trying to understand that and help him work through that."

"I've had conversations with Stefan and we're a new regime and there's going to be a lot of positives for him," added LaPolice. "I think there will be a much more quarterback-friendly atmosphere here. He's under contract now but those decisions are up to him."

Among the other highlights from the fan forum:

-- As part of an effort to improve the game-day experience, the club plans to improve concessions and will celebrate its history with alumni welcoming fans at every gate for every game. As well, there will be more of an on-site presence to honour the 10 Grey Cups in franchise history (one fan volunteered his grandmother to sew championship banners).

-- Incoming chairman of the Bombers' board Bill Watchorn announced that along with Ken Hildahl, Paul Robson, Joe Poplawski and Bruce Robinson would be leaving the board and will be replaced by Bob Cameron, Trevor Kennerd and local businessman Ossama AbouZeid.

-- The annual Hall of Fame Game will go July 2, the 1970s Retro contest is Aug. 13 with the annual Banjo Bowl scheduled for Sept. 12. Three major concert events will also be held at the stadium with the Eagles here on June 22, Bon Jovi on July 17 with Rock on the Range on Aug. 7.

CFL training camps open June 6 with the Bombers opening the 2010 regular season at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 2.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca