Bombers - Box-Office Fail

This is from Winnipeg Free Press top columnist (now that Gooner Lawless has left the building) Paul "The Weasel" Wiecek. Some very interesting facts and trends litter the column. Appears while Wadzilla, Walters & O'Shea have made inroads in building a semi-competitive team - the bomber sales team have gone listless. Either that, or the bombers are no longer seen as a quality go-to product (combination of isolated location and rising ticket prices)

Enough of me - here's the article - - -

It’s the "Home of the CFL’s Loudest Fans."

Or at least that’s what it says in big, bold letters stencilled on the sideline padding at Investors Group Field this season.

Ask any Winnipeg Blue Bombers player or coach and he will tell you, without hesitation, long-suffering Bombers fans are nothing less than "the best fans in the CFL."

So, just to review: loudest and best.

But if that’s true, where are they all hiding?

There have been a disturbing number of empty seats at IGF this CFL season — and, for once, you cannot blame the apathy on the team’s on-field performance.

What makes all those empty seats so disturbing is attendance has declined this year even though the team has risen in the standings. It is a serious concern for everyone in this province with a financial stake in the success of this football franchise: that means all of us.

What does it say about the state of the battered Blue and Gold brand when fans are staying home even though the team is playing winning football for the first time in five years?

Winning is supposed to fix everything; it’s one of the oldest clichés in sport. However, the evidence at the stadium suggests — strongly — that’s not true.

Barring a large and unexpected walk-up crowd for the final two home games (Saturday against the B.C. Lions, and Oct. 29 against the Ottawa Redblacks), it now seems clear the team’s attendance numbers will fall for the third consecutive year.

Adding to the worrying trend line is, without a miraculous turnaround at the box office, attendance this season will be the club’s lowest since at least 2009 when it averaged just 25,720 per game at old Canad Inns Stadium. (The club moved to IGF on the University of Manitoba grounds from Polo Park in time for the 2013 season.)

That bears repeating: the Bombers were more popular in their final three seasons at old, dilapidated Canad Inns Stadium than they are today in a shiny, new football palace financed by the generous taxpayers of Manitoba.

(So why did we bother with a new facility in the first place? That’s a column for another day.)

Through seven home dates this season, the Bombers are averaging 26,148 fans at the 33,234-seat IGF. That’s down more than two per cent from last year, eight per cent from 2014 and 17 per cent since the move to the U of M.

If this trend continues, traffic flow at IGF on game nights is going to be the least of the Bombers’ problems in the years to come.

The Blue Bombers were riding a six-game winning streak last month when just 25,943 fans turned up on a Saturday afternoon to watch them win a seventh over the Toronto Argonauts.

Last Friday, the Bombers — winners of seven of their previous eight and playing host to the longtime division rival Edmonton Eskimos in a game with monstrous playoff implications — drew just 24,706.

Those are brutal numbers for a CFL team that turned its season around after a 1-4 start with a Cinderella-story quarterback and the kind of smash-mouth defence this blue-collar town has always loved.

If this kind of team with this kind of storyline isn’t enough to get fans buying tickets at the same rate they did last year when the club was a woeful 5-13, you have to wonder what — if anything — would get ticket sales back to where they were three years ago, when the Bombers drew an average of 30,640 per game for what went into the books as a 3-15 inaugural season at IGF.

Has all the dysfunction of the past couple decades and, in particular, the last few years, irreparably damaged the brand to the point it no longer matters what the players do on the field?

Love for this football team has been passed down from generation to generation. You cheered for the Bombers because your father did. He did the same, for the same reason. Those fans are still around, but you cannot argue with the facts: their numbers are steadily declining.

The concern now is: what if the Bombers were such a running joke for so long they’ve lost an entire generation of new fans? What if this steady attendance drop in recent years is the first sign of a demographic shift that threatens to turn that sparkling, taxpayer-funded football palace into a giant white elephant?

In the West Division, only the Lions have lower average attendance than the Bombers. And in a year in which more fans are going to CFL games overall, that’s not the case here. Again.

The team, for once, held up its end of the bargain on the field.

The loudest and best fans? It’s getting tougher to hear them.

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Calgary has about as many wins at IGF as the Bombers do.

Give them an off season to rebuild the season ticket base first.

Years of losing has taken it's toll on this franchise. They're not going to turn it around simply on single ticket sales alone.

Hold the line on pricing, give the sales and marketing team a chance to increase sales first before jumping off the cliff for every empty seat...geez!!!

Totally agree with your analysis. Because the alternative isn't a good option. ie. going like street beggars to the provincial govt. for more handouts - as if a $250 million stadium isn't enough - w/ absolutely ZERO private dollars going in!

Wad Miller doing the math - key is the over/under date - that's the date by which the bombers, given their current box office decline can no longer meet financial obligations - even with the land office profits taken in by last year's Grey Cup. My guess is that day is still 2.5 to 3 years away - but if the downtrend continues Miller will start going cap in hand to the new Premier in just over a year!

The white elephant stadium looks great on TV - that was the intention of the architects and designers - but its poorly located, lacks reasonably-priced adjacent parking and continues to have design & construction fails being identified (ex. see the lawsuit of the bomber group vs. the architect and construction company)

I don't advocate subsidies for pro sports but Joe Taxpayer are in so deep with the bombers I'd recommend Miller not wait til he needs 4 or 5 million to cover obligations.

Since private enterprise shun on the bombers like yesterday's trash (as far as investing in them) Miller's only recourse is going cap in hand to the premier's office. That said, I'd do it earlier than later (even though it exposes Miller as a failing CEO). Better to ask for dribs and drabs while trying to re-generate season ticket sales and walk-ups than wait for D-day.

loudest fans in the CFL my butt!!

When they’ve got 28,000+ in the house and things are going the bombers way - THEY’RE INCREDIBLY LOUD. WHO LOUDER?

Other problem is unrelated to bombers specifically. Even the mighty Winnipeg Jets (mostly half-arsed NHL games especially when burdened with Andrew “14 second shifts” Ladd). Even the mighty True North Jets are losing season ticket sales (although they have a whopper waiting list waiting to gobble openings up) but they occasionally don’t sell all remaining inventory - even for bum-out games vs. deadbeat NHL franchises.

The other pro sport franchise in Wpg. is the American League (around Single A baseball) Goldeyes. They are down a ton of fans per average game - used to average 5,500 in a 7,200 facility . . . now around 4,000 with lots of games with 2,500 or 2,800 in the stands.

No worries for baseball. They pay their players with A & W coupons, some guys only get $800 a month plus billeting. Owner makes a ton on concessions and promotions - and rightly so with a wonderfully feeble payroll.

Bisons (CIS) aren’t a factor either, barely putting 1,500 bums in the stands for top level CIS ball. (mostly papered and giveaways to students)

It’s all Joe Mack’s fault! That Mack ruined the Bomberinos!

for the most part the smaller crowdes at 24k is still high so lets not forget this.

the problem with football in canada has always been about summer and fall. ppl do not want to go to games on a saturday afternoon or wednesday night. they will listen to the games on radio and watch them on tv.

the bomber die hard fans go but some still stay away for this reason and that the bombers have been bad for a while that they will not go until a championship team contends regularly.

is it wrong? i think so.

but thats the way it is.

if the bombers made the playoffs they will sell out or come close. the other issue is ticket cost. i dont think the tickets cost much at all considering jets tickets are at times 2.5 times the cost.

but then again many ppl have a smaller budget than i do.

Bombers probably need to win out (4 straight wins) to have any chance for 2nd in west. 2 or 3 wins will prolly enable 3rd in west. One win virtually guarantees cross-over or outside possibility of 3rd. That said, they have virtually no chance hosting a playoff game this season. Actually costs them more to be the travelling team for either one, two or three playoff games.

I'm sure Wadzilla will take 3 playoff games and the expenses associated with such - cuz that means a Grey Cup appearance and probably a boost for 2017 season ticket sales!

I"ve been to both LDC in Regina and Banjo bowl. Winnipeg is louder. If the question was who is more dedicated atm ,it's SK ! SK has an older fan base and little more reserved. Winnipeg has a younger fan base and lead the league in opposition time count violations in the last 5 years.
Both places are awesome to take in a football game and it's splitting hairs.
The Bombers need bring some fans back. Miller has been great in trying to do so. It will take a while to erase the years of ineptitude.

Next year the Riders will be louder. New stadium and improved acoustics, won't even be close.

At some point in next 4 or 5 years Premier Brian Pallister (aka Lurch) will no doubt make the call to True North President & Winnipeg Jets co-owner Mark Chipman - to see if he'd be interested in taking over the football team and partial ownership-management of the stadium. If push comes to show - that's Pallister's only out - unless he wants to put more money in Miller's squeggee hat. Miller knows he'd have virtually no chance of continuing on as Bomber CEO under a potential Chipman ownership group so he'll fight like a dog to get the bombers financially right before having to face Lurch.

You're grasping at straws here LBS. Revenue from the current TV deal alone makes the mortgage payments, that's even before corporate and gate receipts and special events.

What the hell does Rick Flair have to do with this ? :lol:

Lyle, have you even attended a game at Investors Group Field yet ?

The NHL made the Bombers second fiddle...

Interesting that at the time of this poll, the Celtics were rated fourth fiddle on the Boston sports scene. And I always thought the Red Sox were always the first fiddle but not the case according to when this poll was taken.

Poll indicates that Celtics are least popular major pro team in Boston

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This is only partially true. The Stamps and Eskimos still get tons of fan support - even with losing NHL teams in their markets.

Sask'n has no other professional sports other than barnyard curling and lacrosse in their area - some would say the first half of the rider season was also amateur hour!

Bomber fans finally were able to discern on their own behalf that bombers were stringing them along for decades with the same old "kick the can forward" excuse-making. Bringing in human vermin like Lyle Bauer, Joe Mack, Garthy Buchko, Brendan Taman, Tim Burke, Ken Bishop, Jeff Reinbold, Urban Bowman, etc. didn't help!

Jury still out on Miller, Walters, O'Shea. They have re-built a feeble on-field product to the extent they can stay on the field with just about everyone. However, they seem to be blithely ignoring the poor gates - and dismal sales/marketing efforts. Even though Miller is generally regarded as a most repulsive character he's done more good things than bad.

To a degree yeah, but it's not as if the Bombers were selling out like crazy for years. Actually it seems as though 25-26,000 is their average.

1970 17,183 1980 25,040 1990 26,704 2000 25,461 2010 26,074
1971 21,383 1981 27,300 1991 27,757 2001 28,144 2011 29,556
1972 24,664 1982 28,596 1992 26,083 2002 27,560 2012 27,981
1973 23,870 1983 24,614 1993 25,101 2003 27,225 2013 30,640
1974 22,494 1984 28,321 1994 23,606 2004 24,496 2014 28,314
1975 24,006 1985 28,739 1995 22,888 2005 24,317 2015 26,746
1976 23,221 1986 26,873 1996 25,799 2006 26,988
1977 24,699 1987 26,841 1997 21,483 2007 27,701
1978 26,914 1988 24,858 1998 22,683 2008 27,191
1979 24,487 1989 24,160 1999 21,807 2009 25,720

I think part of the problem is that Investors Group Field was built too large for the Bombers fan base.

Too funny! They both have a similar arrogant and smug demeanor.