On May 6th, the Canadian Premier League (CPL) was officially approved by the Canadian Soccer Association, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Hamilton Tiger-cats of the Canadian Football League owning the teams first two chartered members. This only got Winnipeg fans more excited as River City will once again be the home to top notch professional soccer.
As part of these exciting times and build relationships with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Red River Rising (RRR) reached out to them and contacted them. The Blue Bombers Vice President of Business Operations Kelly Kowalchuk replied back. From there, it was pinning down a day, time, and place. After much back and forth, we confirmed a meeting June 19th at the University of Winnipeg Garbonzos location.
One key thing that we as a supporters group discussed was ideas we were looking for in a team and game day experience. Generally, RRR wants this to be a team for all that embraces an active supporters culture, similar to teams in Major League Soccer, Latin America, and Europe. We mentioned to Kowalchuk we want a contending team while supporting the best local soccer talent available.
Regarding new league information, not a lot was disclosed, which is understandable. Kowalchuk notes the CPL is still in the beginning stages. So we still wait (and wait) for clues on names and team colors. Hopefully, sometime soon, we will get closer to what our CPL identity truly is.
Kowalchuk also engaged us in a discussion about ticket price range and season tickets. The group suggested $20.00 was a good starting point for an average ticket. It was also floated around about ensuring tickets were affordable, similar to what the minor league American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes does with its ticket prices. Its lowest is around $10.00 per game on the third base line. Winnipeggers are always looking for a bargain, yet, we want to guarantee we as soccer fans are paying for high-quality value sporting experience.
Season ticket packages also got discussed around the table. The Blue Bombers are potentially looking at multi-year commitments to ensure revenue over a certain amount of time. The Winnipeg Jets famously did this during their initial 2011-12 NHL season ticket campaign. There, Jets season ticket holders are committed to a minimum of a three-year commitment. It’s uncertain if this will be the final word when season tickets are first sold and if so how long of a commitment should Winnipeg soccer fans need to commit too.
Kowalchuk has already seen an interest in season tickets from the email list they are currently compiling. That lead us into a group discussion on how many Winnipeg season tickets could be sold. The agreement between RRR and Kowalchuk 5,000 is attainable, with 10,000 an active and an ambitious goal. The idea here was you might as well set your sets high as a startup pro soccer franchise.
If we and the Blue Bombers want to see 10,000 season ticket holders and more walk up, then it’s vital to have a lively game day experience. RRR advocated the need for a supporters group and culture to make the soccer game days at Investors Group Field a unique and exciting experience. The group provided many talking points where supporters groups are why going to soccer games provide an event within itself.
But perhaps the last key important takeaway in our meeting with the Blue Bombers, of the night was why the CPL would work, compared to CSL 1987-1992. Demographics are much different now, thanks to an influx of immigration, millennials who are more interested in soccer and educated on the game, compared other generations. Based on these suggestions, pro soccer for the second time around, will work in River City.
Overall, this meeting was the start of building a relationship with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as we get nearer towards kickoff of the CPL. This was the start of making connections between the local Winnipeg soccer supporters and the Blue Bombers in ensuring not only a strong supporters culture but a soccer club with strong community ties in Winnipeg.