December 10, 2019

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Blue Bombers in talks to bring NFL game to Winnipeg

The NFL could be coming to the city this summer.

The Winnipeg Football Club is currently in talks with the NFL to host the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers in an NFL Week 3 pre-season contest, a game traditionally scheduled for the third week of August, Free Press sources confirmed Tuesday.

Multiple reports have surfaced in recent weeks that the Raiders are planning to host a pre-season game in Canada, as they navigate through their stadium issues, with Winnipeg being named as a possible destination. Saskatchewan was first believed to be hosting the game, though the Roughriders have since pulled out of the running.

"The proposed date of the game was to be held on the evening of Friday, August 23," said a statement released by the Roughriders to the Regina Leader-Post.

"The Canadian Football League and the Roughriders raised concerns that a Friday evening game would not allow for Mosaic Stadium to convert back to the CFL playing standard in time for the Riders’ regular-season game on Saturday, August 24 at 5:00 p.m."

The Edmonton Eskimos were also rumoured as a potential host. However, according to Eskimos radio play-by-play voice Morley Scott, Edmonton "does not have a bid to host an NFL pre-season game."

According to sources, Winnipeg has a strong interest to host the game and is currently working on the logistics to see whether it would be possible. They have yet to win the bid but are eager to make it happen.

The CFL said they didn’t plan to issue a statement, but noted: "it’s important for the team and venue to have the turnaround time."

The timing doesn’t seem to be an issue for Winnipeg. The Bombers are scheduled to be on the road, in Edmonton, for a Week 11 matchup with the Eskimos, Aug. 23. They’re also in Saskatchewan the following week for the annual Labour Day Classic game against the Roughriders. There is, however, a Valour FC game, the city's new soccer team in the Canadian Premier League, scheduled for Aug. 22.

Sources say an exact date has yet to be set.

The team isn't willing to commit one way or the other, issuing the following statement: "The Winnipeg Football Club is always exploring opportunities to host events at Investors Group Field. At this time, the Club has no further comment."

Winnipeg Blue Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller said in April: 'Part of our mandate is to maximize revenues and opportunities for the stadium'

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Blue Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller said in April: 'Part of our mandate is to maximize revenues and opportunities for the stadium'

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 IGF. 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.

A number of concerts have also taken place at IGF, including high-end names such as Taylor Swift, AC/DC, Paul McCartney and Jay-Z and Beyonce.

This would be the first time another professional football game outside of the CFL has been hosted in Winnipeg.

According to sources, the driving force behind the pre-season game is to boost the club's bottom line and the biggest revenue generator for the WFC is hosting large-scale events.

"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 IGF 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 much anymore.

Oakland Raiders running back Chris Warren III, center, is tackled by Green Bay Packers defensive end James Looney (99) and linebacker James Crawford (54) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.

BEN MARGOT / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Oakland Raiders running back Chris Warren III, center, is tackled by Green Bay Packers defensive end James Looney (99) and linebacker James Crawford (54) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.

The other benefits include the added exposure the game would bring to IGF. The hope, according to sources, is that an NFL game will help bring fans to the stadium, some of them for the first time. By giving the public an up-close look at the facilities, it might lead to a return visit, whether for a Bombers game or another event at IGF.

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 back 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 cut 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 play in the NFL pre-season game will ultimately get released, and after viewing the kind of up-scale amenities IGF has to offer, it could be a notable recruiting tool for the Bombers.

Sources said there is still plenty of work to be done before a deal is reached no announcement is imminent.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

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.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 5:32 PM CDT: Updates headline

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