Winnipeg Blue Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller had the highest of hopes for Thursday’s NFL preseason game between the Raiders and Packers at IG Field in Winnipeg, the first NFL game played in Canada since the Buffalo Bills ended their ill-fated annual Toronto games in 2013.
And then fans got wind of the staggering ticket prices and the fact that many NFL coaches would sooner let their starters wrestle alligators than play them in a preseason game, even in Week 3 of the preseason, which traditionally is the time when starters get the most run of the exhibition slate. Now it’s looking like the stadium, which seats only 33,134, will barely be half full when the teams take the field.
Promoter John Graham told the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen that he was expecting a crowd “similar to what I saw at the last Bomber game. Probably around 20,000.”
For the record, the last Blue Bombers home game drew 24,914, or about 25 percent more than the crowd that’s expected for the NFL game Thursday night.
Ticket prices have been a stumbling block, because SWEET MERCY LOOK AT THESE TICKET PRICES.
That’s what the top lower-level seats were going for as of Thursday morning on TicketMaster’s official site ($439.25 Canadian equates to about $330.50 in U.S. currency). While that’s ludicrous, the average lower-bowl seat still is going for $300 Canadian, Friesen reports. According to Ticketmaster, the cheapest ticket — an end-zone seat in Section 120 — is $94.25 Canadian (about 71 bucks American).
You could have gotten an 11-game Blue Bombers season ticket for $254.50, according to reports from June.
Graham, described as “feisty” in the Sun headline, criticized local coverage of the game, citing “very biased articles” and “things that aren’t accurate.” But Friesen also pointed out that Graham talked about some sort of football “festival” when the game was announced, and that the Packers and Raiders wouldn’t simply be “flying in, playing a game and getting out of town.”
Both teams arrived for Thursday’s game on Wednesday night. There are no festivals planned, apart from a viewing party in downtown Winnipeg sponsored by the Blue Bombers during the game.
“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,” Miller told Canadian Press on Wednesday. “And we wanted to make sure that our season-ticket members and football fans in the entire community had a place to gather and have a great event.”
It seems Canadian fans do not want to shell out hundreds of dollars to see what could be a game full of backups, or at least one devoid of stars. Packers Coach Matt LaFleur has not yet said whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers will play (he’ has been battling back tightness throughout the preseason). Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown, meanwhile, posted a video of him boarding the team plane for the flight to Winnipeg, but it seems unlikely that he’s actually going to play.
Jim Owczarski, who covers the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, noted the lack of buzz upon his arrival in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
I’ve only been here since 10:30, I’ve only walked 4+ mi. through various populated spots - but I’ve seen:— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) August 21, 2019
• 1 #Packers / #Raiders digital billboard
• 1 woman in a #RaidersNation 🇨🇦 T-shirt
• 1 man in a Tom Brady jersey
Day is young but not feeling a vibe...
The Raiders aren’t helping:
Winnipeg is in Manitoba, not Alberta.
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