The NFL is coming to Winnipeg this summer.
The Winnipeg Football Club is in its final stages of completing a plan to host the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers in an NFL Week 3 pre-season game, a match traditionally scheduled for the third week of August, Free Press sources confirmed Friday.
The Free Press first reported back in March that the WFC was strongly committed to winning the NFL's bid to host an exhibition game in Canada. The report came shortly after plans fell through to have the game in Regina, at Mosaic Stadium, due to the short turnaround time for the Roughriders game the next day. Edmonton was also said to be interested in hosting the game.
Timing doesn’t seem to be an issue for Winnipeg. The Bombers are scheduled to be on the road for a Week 11 matchup with the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday, Aug. 23. There is, however, a Valour FC game, the city's new soccer team in the Canadian Premier League, scheduled for the Thursday that week.
While no date has been officially decided on at this point, sources say it won’t be the same night the Bombers play.
NFL officials, as well as representatives from both the Raiders and Packers, were in Winnipeg in April, as first reported by the Free Press, to get an up-close look at IG Field and its facilities. There were a series of meetings conducted, aimed at ironing out the logistics of hosting such a large-scale event.
The Bombers have stayed mostly quiet about their intentions in hosting the game, issuing this statement in March: "The Winnipeg Football Club is always exploring opportunities to host events at Investors Group Field. At this time, the Club has no further comment."
They offered a bit more clarity when reached Friday.
"We’re optimistic that we can secure this game," said Darren Cameron, the team's senior director of public and player relations. "It’s looking good and we’re working towards that game but at this point there’s nothing more we can comment on."
Ticket prices are still being discussed, though sources say it’s the NFL that dictates the price of admission. Bombers season-ticket members and corporate sponsors are expected to get first dibs.
WFC president and CEO Wade Miller has been quite vocal in the past when it comes to the club's interest in hosting sporting events at IG Field. The Bombers hosted FIFA’s Women’s World Cup games in 2015 as well as the NHL’s Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers a year later.
Several concerts have also taken place at IG Field, including big names such as Taylor Swift, AC/DC, Paul McCartney and Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
This would be the first time another professional football game outside of the CFL has been hosted in Winnipeg.
"Part of our mandate is to maximize revenues and opportunities for the stadium," Miller told the Free Press in an interview last April, following the release of the WFC’s 2017 financial report. "Getting an extra major event in the stadium, if you look at it from that perspective, is big."
Miller was referring to the Bombers hosting their first-ever playoff game at IG Field that year. At the time, he also lamented the difficulty in finding enough events outside of the CFL to help boost revenue, noting there just aren’t as many large-scale, outdoor concerts to bid on anymore.
The other benefits of hosting an NFL game include the added exposure the event would bring to IG Field. It should help bring fans to the stadium, some for the first time, and the hope is it might lead to a return visit, whether for a Bombers game or another event.
Of course, that would mean the WFC would be gambling on football fans in the city wanting to attend the game. It bodes well, then, that the third week of the NFL pre-season is known to showcase star players, with some playing for a majority of the game. That would mean fans in Winnipeg would get to see the likes of quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Antonio Brown for the Raiders; Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and receiver Davante Adams, to name a few.
Then there is the WFC football operations side that could also benefit.
Although the NFL is considered to be a direct competition to the CFL, many players that get released from its teams eventually make their way to Canada for a chance to continue a professional career in the CFL. Some of the players that in the NFL pre-season game will ultimately get cut; IG Field's upscale amenities could prove to be a notable recruiting tool for the Bombers.
email@example.com twitter: @jeffkhamilton
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.