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 email@example.com