Group faces barriers hosting Accessible Sport Expo before CFL Western Final game

The CFL’s Western Final is still 10 days away but concerns are already growing about how game day traffic will impact people attending a different event on the University of Manitoba campus.

An upcoming expo showcasing multiple accessible sports for people living with a disability will end at nearby Investors Group Athletic Centre just 90 minutes before kickoff, as thousands of football fans descend on IG Field to watch the Blue Bombers try to secure another appearance in the Grey Cup.

“It’s a space where people can try a number of adapted sports and rec activities all in one spot,” said Kirby Cote, a retired Paralympian, vice president of Accessible Sport Connection Manitoba, and organizer of the Accessible Sport Expo.

The event, which is free to attend and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., was booked back in August.

Organizers knew there was a chance there would be an overlap with a Blue Bombers game but Cote said getting assistance from the Blue Bombers to facilitate a smooth exit for attendees hasn’t been easy.

“Their solution was that we would end our event a half hour earlier,” Cote said. “But I guess they were unaware that we had already chosen to end the event two hours earlier and in ending this earlier we actually lost a demo for a sport which is sledge hockey which is obviously a very large sport.”

Cote, who lives with visual impairment, said Nov. 13 is the only day that was available to book all the sports facilities at U of M needed to put on the event and she said it’s the only facility capable of hosting the multiple sports to be demoed during the expo.

An email shared with CTV News Winnipeg from the Bombers to expo organizers shows that the expo was asked if it was possible to have to the parking lots cleared of buses and cars by 2 p.m.

The circumstances are disappointing for Peter Tonge, executive director of Manitoba Wheelchair Sports.

His organization plans on demoing two sports: wheelchair basketball and rugby.

Tonge worries challenges getting off campus may impact how many people choose to attend.

“I have lots of concerns because we’re expecting lots of folks with disabilities at the expo,” Tonge said. “They all have to arrange pre-arranged times special transports.”

“Moving everybody in for the game it’s going to cause not only the organizer of the event to have to rearrange their event but everybody to rearrange their transport and the time that they have to take part in the expo.”

A spokesperson for University of Manitoba said it has no control over the expo or the Blue Bombers.

The Blue Bombers weren’t immediately able to comment on Cote’s specific concerns but responded with an emailed statement to CTV News Winnipeg.

“The Winnipeg Football Club always strives to work as cooperatively as possible with anyone needing access to the U of M campus on game days, or any major events on campus,” wrote Darren Cameron, the Blue Bombers senior director of public and player relations.

Cote said in this case all the expo is asking is a little more assistance to make sure people living with a disability can get home.

“To make accessible and inclusive events, everyone involved needs to be part of the conversation and needs to know that inclusivity and accessibility is the primary focus,” Cote said.

The province is supporting the expo through the Manitoba Accessibility Fund but said it has no role in either the planning of the expo or the CFL Western Final game.

Winnipeg Transit Plus said people who request a ride to and from the event will be informed of pick-up and drop-off locations at the time of their booking.

As the event gets closer and more information becomes available about how many people will be attending, Transit Plus will determine if an inspector should be on site prior to the Bombers game to help provide assistance to those leaving the expo.

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