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A Whiteout backfire: Scalpers sell free tickets for Winnipeg Jets street party

The crowd at the whiteout street party just before the game starts in Winnipeg on Monday, May 7, 2018.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The crowd at the whiteout street party just before the game starts in Winnipeg on Monday, May 7, 2018.

A new system to track attendance at Whiteout street parties during Winnipeg Jets playoff games could backfire and result in smaller crowds.

Organizers announced a new policy Friday requiring attendees to obtain a free ticket in advance.

The ticket must be downloaded from Ticketmaster to a smartphone, printed from a computer or obtained at the Bell MTS Place box office.

The ticket process was announced as a way organizers could know how many people to expect, so they could provide services such as policing and portable toilets.

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A new system to track attendance at Whiteout street parties during Winnipeg Jets playoff games could backfire and result in smaller crowds.

Organizers announced a new policy Friday requiring attendees to obtain a free ticket in advance.

The ticket must be downloaded from Ticketmaster to a smartphone, printed from a computer or obtained at the Bell MTS Place box office.

The ticket process was announced as a way organizers could know how many people to expect, so they could provide services such as policing and portable toilets.

However, all 25,000 tickets for today’s party were gone in less than an hour, and tickets for Monday’s party were gone by mid-afternoon Friday. The highest attendance for a street party so far was 20,000 last Tuesday for Game 6 against Nashville.

That’s led to suspicions that the commitment of some people obtaining tickets is soft and that they obtained the free tickets more as insurance should they feel like going.

As well, with the rush to obtain tickets online, people were almost forced to scoop up tickets immediately before they had time to consult with friends and family.

"I assumed that this was going to happen. They sell out immediately because people get them in case they decide to go," Jets fan Chris Cymbalisty said.

The free tickets started to show up almost immediately on buy-and-sell website Kijiji — for a price.

Tickets were typically selling for $25 each, with one offer of four for $150.

Winnipeg police issued a warning Friday for the public to beware of tickets being offered for sale "for large sums of money per ticket."

"This is considered what is commonly known as ticket scalping," police said, noting the practice is against the law.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg announces a new ticketing policy for the whiteout street party this Saturday in Winnipeg on Friday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg announces a new ticketing policy for the whiteout street party this Saturday in Winnipeg on Friday.

Kevin Donnelly, a senior vice-president with True North Sports and Entertainment, conceded the new ticket process could result in smaller street parties because not everyone will use their tickets. "That’s a fact of life" in planning events, he said.

"We aren’t necessarily interested in maxing out this space. We’re doing our best to accommodate as many fans as we can, but we’re going to err on fewer (people) rather than greater," he said.

Fans can obtain as many as eight tickets per order. That’s standard for concerts — although those tickets aren’t free — and people attending the Whiteout parties tend to go in large groups, Donnelly said.

Donnelly stressed the new policy is a work in progress. "Every time we’ve done these things, we have learned a lesson. We’re going to see what happens today and hopefully put the lessons learned into use on Monday."

Donnelly didn’t know how successful people would be trying to sell the tickets online. "We find it an unfortunate sign of the times that we’re seeing tickets sold," he said. "It’s not in the spirit of this event."

Crowd management policy is determined by a committee that includes True North, the city, Winnipeg police and emergency services.

Tim Feduniw, Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association executive director, sympathizes with the organizers. "I remember putting on a free April Wine concert in Portage la Prairie (in the 1990s) and expecting 8,000 people to show up. We got 28,000. It was absolutely crazy. We didn’t know what to do," Feduniw said.

"From a predictive perspective, it’s important to understand what kind of crowd numbers you’re dealing with. As excitement builds, we need to understand what we’re facing."

But Feduniw said the issue that too many people may go downtown is an enviable dilemma.

"What a wonderful problem to have, anticipating crowds downtown larger than we can handle. When was the last time we had that kind of problem?"

Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said street-party organizers must be doing something right because city and hockey officials from Edmonton visited Winnipeg recently to study the Whiteout parties.

People with tickets to the Jets game can use their tickets to enter the street party before and after the game. Street party ticket holders can leave and re-enter the gated-off party area. Tickets will be scanned at entry points.

The maximum crowd capacity for the licensed area of the street party is about 22,000 and another 3,000 for the family area at the Millennium Library.

Gates open at 4 p.m. today. The game between the Jets and the Vegas Golden Knights starts at 6 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Bill Redekop

Bill Redekop
Rural Reporter

Bill Redekop has been covering rural issues for going on two decades.

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History

Updated on Friday, May 11, 2018 at 9:22 PM CDT: Fixes typo

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