Winnipeg Blue Bomber Glenn January knows good things really do come to those who wait. While construction of the team’s new home at Investors Group Field was neither rapid nor without hiccups the boyishly handsome offensive tackle points to the final score, a win for Winnipeg. “I’m happy it was done the right way it was worth the extra time because this is a fantastic facility that is going to be absolutely at the top for years to come.”
Investors Group Field celebrated its grand opening June 27 with the kickoff to the 2013 Canadian Football League season that saw Winnipeg face the Montreal Alouettes. Situated on the University of Manitoba’s sprawling Fort Garry campus, the world-class athletic field was built to replace the inadequate and crumbling Canad Inns Stadium (1953-2012). The new, modern facility is home turf for both U of M Bisons and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The city’s former CFL digs were set in a concrete jungle, a far cry from the lush greenery surrounding Investors Group Field. Visible from Pembina Hwy, the structure’s fluid form and gorgeous architecture has quickly established the field as a point of civic pride. Winnipeg’s latest and greatest landmark joins the ranks of quintessential ’Peg places such as Esplanade Riel, The Leg and Manitoba Hydro Place.
While football is the building’s bread and butter, it has already hosted a multi-denominational Christian service of 14,000 worshippers and a sold-out Taylor Swift concert. Sir Paul McCartney is scheduled to rock the gridiron mid August.
Spectator comfort is much improved here, it is easy to get about the stylish structure with six elevators and spacious corridors. The sunken bowl design (the first 12 rows of seats are below street-level) creates great sightlines at every level and fans will appreciate twice as much legroom and a cup holder on each seat. Eighty per cent of the seats are sheltered from the elements by the second-largest canopies in North America. Swanky private suites offer gourmet grub, complimentary WiFi and a bird’s eye view of golden Bomber helmets shimmering on the green turf.
Plenty of accessible washrooms and a designated booze-free family zone promise to make game day a great experience for everyone. A tempting roster of concessions (twice as many as Canad Inns Stadium) offers a wealth of choice reflective of the city’s food scene ranging from fresh sushi and gelato to bison burgers and local bratwust. At Shawarma Khan you may even be served by owner and former Blue Bomber, Obby Khan.
Bomber Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Bell uses a suitably sporty analogy of adrenaline to describe the frenetic energy cloaking the facility as everyone, from Bomber Store staff to football players to construction crews, puts in finishing touches. Finally standing on glistening turf at centre field beneath epic undulated fins and NFL-sized video boards, Bell gets emotional, “It’s been a long process that included all of the planning, not just bricks and mortar. You feel six feet off the ground with goose bumps down your back.”
Bomber and Bison brass know their shiny new digs are attractive to prospective athletes and energizing to current ones. Players are excited about the state-of-the-art training facility that includes a jet propulsion hot tub, an underwater treadmill and an underwater bike, super spacious locker room and player’s lounge, 2,200 sq. ft. weight room, multiple meeting rooms and an 80-seat theatre with descending projection screens.
Signature canopies and bowl seating were designed with the team’s 13th player in mind, this city’s notoriously boisterous fans. Ripples of the roof amplify the crowd’s roar, intimidating opponents and adding to the Bombers’ home field advantage. “Winnipeg was already the hardest city to play in due to the fans and how knowledgeable they are of the game and how rambunctious they get so this is just going to add to that,” January says. “Hopefully it makes Winnipeg a city that nobody wants to come and play in.”
A formidable, unnerving environment to visiting teams is an exciting, energetic environment for fans. Investors Group Field is a winning spectator experience. Now all we need to do is sit back, enjoy a cold one with a hot dog and watch as the Bombers bring home the Grey Cup. Go Blue!