Circle August 5th on your calendar, Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans. And if the 2021 Canadian Football League season opener had already been highlighted, well, circle it again.
The province announced Wednesday a further loosening of pandemic restrictions, with the new public health orders providing a green light for the Blue Bombers to welcome a full capacity of fully-vaccinated fans to the Canadian Football League’s 2021 season opener August 5th at IG Field. That game will be a 2019 Grey Cup rematch featuring the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“This is a great day for Bomber fans,” said Blue Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller after the announcement. “Manitobans got to this point by going out and getting vaccinated and that needs to continue for us to all recover from this pandemic. So, August 5th we’ll be going full-steam ahead.”
The new orders mean that fans who wish to attend will need to have had their second vaccination by July 21st and must have their Manitoba immunization card – either the paper or digital version – available upon entry to the stadium.
To help alleviate potential congestion for the opener, the Bombers are asking fans to arrive as early as possible, with gates now to be opened at least 90 minutes before kickoff. The club is also encouraging more fans to park on campus, and notes that tailgating will take place inside the stadium with concessions and drink specials.
As for the availability of tickets, season ticket members will have first crack at single game tickets beginning this Friday, with single game tickets going on sale to the general public on Monday, July 19th at 10 a.m. Season tickets and flex packs are also available right now for purchase. Once inside IG Field, fans will be able to move about freely as was the case previously before the pandemic. And for the many that have already been asking, yes, that means the Rum Hut will be open.
“It’ll be normal when you get in the building,” Miller said. “Everybody will be fully-vaccinated. We also ask that you respect people’s space as we all get comfortable getting back to a large event like this.”
The Bombers return-to-play health plan, FYI, has officially been approved by the province.
“There have been many different versions because we just didn’t know where this was going to end up, because where we were in October of last year is completely different than the way it looks today,” said Miller. “Even from 30-40 days ago things have changed. But we’ve been building contingency plans and have been working through every different angle to find a way to bring our fans safely back to IG Field.
“Being fully vaccinated is going to be a game changer, because now you know everyone in the facility is going to be fully vaccinated.”
Miller wouldn’t release any information on plans for a 2019 Grey Cup banner raising, saying only that an announcement was ‘coming soon.’ The news is massive for the club financially as after the cancellation of the 2020 season, the prospect of playing in front of reduced capacity in 2021 was again going to be part of another massive hit for the franchise. Opening up to full capacity for the seven regular season home games certainly helps.
“It’s definitely a big step forward,” Miller said. “We’ve got 19 days (before August 5th), so we’re going to have to move quickly here to get everyone in. We’ve got a lot of work to do with our stakeholders. But the bottom line is everybody is looking forward to getting this back going.”
There’s an emotional component here, too. People all over the province are itching for a return to some of the things that make summers here so special – Bombers home games clearly among them.
“This is great news. It’s what everyone wants,” said Miller. “It’s special and it’s us getting back to normal. And what better way is there to do it than to come and celebrate the kickoff of the CFL’s 2021 season right here at IG Field?”
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