Bombers boss expects around 20,000 fans for NFL game in Winnipeg

The Prince George Citizen - - Sports - Judy OWEN

WINNIPEG — Wade Miller wants to make sure foot­ball fans en­joy Thurs­day’s NFL pre-sea­son game in Winnipeg be­tween the Oak­land Raiders and Green Bay Pack­ers, even if they can’t af­ford to be in the stands.

The pres­i­dent and CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers said the CFL team and the Raiders are host­ing a view­ing party down­town so fans can watch the Week 3 ex­hi­bi­tion con­test live-streamed from IG Field, home of the Bombers.

“Based on the price of these tick­ets, there was go­ing to be a lot of fans who wouldn’t be able to af­ford to come to the game and we wanted to make sure that our sea­sonticket mem­bers and foot­ball fans in the en­tire com­mu­nity had a place to gather and have a great event,” Miller told The Cana­dian Press on Wed­nes­day.

“We think it’s a great op­por­tu­nity to en­gage the en­tire com­mu­nity of Winnipeg.”

The game will be shown on a jumbo screen at The Forks, a down­town tourist at­trac­tion. There will be food and ac­tiv­i­ties with the cost a cash or food do­na­tion to the Winnipeg Har­vest char­ity.

Ticket prices for the game were con­tro­ver­sial since the event was an­nounced in June.

Tick­ets were $75 to $340 be­fore taxes and fees. The limited cheap­est up­per-deck seats sold out fast. Up to 6,000 end-zone tick­ets were re­cently re­duced through a spon­sor­ship deal to $75 from $164, for a to­tal cost of $94.25 af­ter fees.

Prices were set by pro­moter John Gra­ham, pres­i­dent of Cana­dian-based On Ice En­ter­tain­ment Ltd., and the Raiders. Oak­land gets the gate rev­enue.

“We rented out the venue,” Miller said. “Those (prices) are de­ci­sions made by the pro­moter. We can’t con­trol those, but what we can con­trol is putting on a good event down at The Forks and mak­ing sure the sta­dium looks great.”

Miller ini­tially pre­dicted the game wouldn’t sell out.

“I’m sure there will be around 20,000 here,” he said. “The ticket sales are what they are and we can’t con­trol that. At the end of the day, it’s still a pre-sea­son game and that is what it is.”

Al­though starters tra­di­tion­ally get the most play­ing time in a Week 3 ex­hi­bi­tion game, that may not hap­pen Thurs­day.

New Pack­ers head coach Matt LaFleur said af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice that star quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers is a game-time de­ci­sion.

The 15-year vet­eran hasn’t yet played in the pre-sea­son. He was held out of last week’s loss to the Bal­ti­more Ravens be­cause of tight­ness in his back.

“I’ve never been to Winnipeg, but I’m sure there’s some Pack­ers fans up there,” Rodgers told re­porters af­ter a prac­tice this week.

“I’m ex­cited to get up there and see the folks. I’ve been a fan of the CFL for a while so I know how much those cities that have a team, how much it means to them, and it’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing to get up there and play.”

It’s the first time Green Bay has played a neu­tral-site ex­hi­bi­tion game since it faced the Kansas City Chiefs in a Hall of Fame game in Can­ton, Ohio, in 2003.

Oak­land, which is mov­ing to Las Ve­gas next sea­son, may not have start­ing quar­ter­back Derek Carr take any snaps, nor new re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown catch­ing passes.

Raiders head coach Jon Gru­den told me­dia af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice that it depends “on the health of a team, who’s in and who’s out.”

Brown is re­cov­er­ing from frost­bit­ten feet he suf­fered dur­ing cryother­apy in France last month. He’s also test­ing new hel­mets af­ter he re­cently lost a grievance to wear his old, un­cer­ti­fied hel­met.

At the press con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the game, Gra­ham said he was hope­ful Oak­land (2-0) and Green Bay (1-1) would hit the field in Winnipeg be­fore the game for a prac­tice or walk-through. That didn’t hap­pen. Also, no an­nounce­ment has been made about the half­time show.

How­ever, Miller said the com­mu­nity has been drawn into the event.

The Bombers and Raiders put on a sevenon-seven foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion at IG Field last month. Win­ners from three age groups re­ceived tick­ets to the game and there was a draw for more.

Thirty youth and mem­bers from north­ern Man­i­toba First Na­tions are also be­ing flown in to at­tend the game.

He added am­a­teur foot­ball play­ers will hold the Cana­dian and Amer­i­can flags at the game and some will line the teams’ tun­nels when play­ers come onto the field, which has been con­verted to the smaller NFL size.

“Our oper­a­tions staff have done an amaz­ing job in turn­ing our field from foot­ball to soc­cer, now to an NFL field,” Miller said.

“Our team’s work­ing re­ally hard here to make sure our city shows well and it will, and IG Field will, too.”

It’s the first NFL con­test in Canada since the Buf­falo Bills com­pleted a run of eight games in Toronto with a reg­u­lar-sea­son clash against the At­lanta Fal­cons in De­cem­ber 2013.


Oak­land Raiders’ A.J. Cole, is shown in this im­age from the Raiders’ twit­ter ac­count, ar­rives in Winnipeg on Wed­nes­day to pre­pare for a pre-sea­son NFL matchup against the Green Bay Pack­ers.

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