Fair weather fans burn Blue

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

In two weeks the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will put the finishing touches on their worst regular-season attendance mark since 1999.

Not even a sellout against the Calgary Stampeders on Oct. 29 would be enough to eclipse the 229,157 patrons who attended games on Maroons Road in 2000.

The Bombers have attracted 197,344 fans through eight home games this season, or an average of 24,668 per contest. The club needs to sell at least 27,656 for the Calgary game to attain a 25,000 average.

Last season the Blue and Gold averaged 27,317 fans per game. At an average ticket price of $22, the club is poised to take at least a $500,000 hit at the gate compared to 2003.

"The biggest contributing factor this year has been the weather ... and our early-season performance didn't help us, either," president and CEO Lyle Bauer said yesterday. "It does have an impact. It'll have a big impact on year-end. Fortunately we've got one game left, and we certainly want to have a great crowd for that one because it will be the last game of the season here.

"It means a lot to us. It means a lot to the football club and it means a lot to the future of the football club."

Winnipeg's first five home contests this season were held on Thursday nights, which, according to some fans, was the main reason for smaller crowds.

For four of those five games, however, the weather was brutal.

So what was it? Thursday nights or the weather?

"We're just trying to re-evaluate that, if the Thursdays and Fridays have made a difference," vice-president of sales and marketing Jerry Maslowsky said yesterday. "... Most of the Thursday games it rained and the next day, Friday, was a nice day. We are so weather dependent on walk-up crowds.

"This is my fifth season here and I've never seen it like this. It has an effect, there's no doubt about it."

The two most-attended games occurred in the last month -- Sat., Sept. 12, against Toronto and last Friday night against Hamilton.

The four least-attended games all took place on Thursdays in relatively poor weather.

There is hope for next season, according to Maslowsky, because the Bombers now control Canad Inns Stadium. They can submit preferred dates to the league without having to check with Winnipeg Enterprises first.

"We've had some pretty good years as far as weather ... and we've prepared people on the board and everybody else for a year such as this," Bauer said. "The law of averages pretty much comes into play."

READ ALL ABOUT IT: The CFL is still deciding whether or not Bombers KR/WR Keith Stokes will be punished for pulling his magazine stunt against Hamilton last Friday.

"The process is in the works," CFL director of marketing and communications Alexis Redmond said yesterday. "It's being reviewed."


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