Big win for Bombers

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have finally won something this season.

The Grey Cup is officially coming back to Winnipeg in 2006, and local officials could not be more confident that the event will be a resounding success.

"Winnipeg is the centre of festivals and games, and I know Manitoba will do a great job of hosting this game," Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said during yesterday's news conference at Canad Inns Stadium. "It will be the greatest Grey Cup ever because (Bombers president) Lyle (Bauer) and his team will make sure that happens."

CFL commissioner Tom Wright, on behalf of the league's board of governors, announced that Winnipeg beat out "two or three" other clubs and will host the game on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006.

The events preceding the game will help pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

"I have an opportunity today to announce a decision that has been made that is so right for a city, so right for a team and so right for a country," Wright said.

"My first Grey Cup was in this city, and I can hardly wait to come back in 25 months and enjoy that celebration one more time."

The Manitoba capital also hosted the event in 1991 and 1998.

The City of Winnipeg and the province have offered to pony up a combined $3.1 million for the bid guarantee should the event lose money, but no one is expecting that to happen.

"This really is a tremendous opportunity to showcase some of Winnipeg's finest qualities -- the hospitality of our citizens, the spirit of our volunteers and the energy of a city that knows how to throw a party," Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said.

"These events would not have succeeded without the dedication of our hard-working citizens, and the spirit Winnipeggers bring to get the job done. The 2006 Grey Cup will be no exception."

Securing what is arguably Canada's biggest party could not have come at a better time for the Bombers, who have spent the last five years diminishing their multi-million-dollar debt to approximately $300,000 but are about to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

"We plan on hopefully being able to retire that before we hit the Grey Cup," Bauer said. "That's why this is the right time and the right place for this organization to hold a Grey Cup, because it's not being looked at as the salvation, it's not being looked at as the bank roll.

CELEBRATE A GREAT TRADITION

"It's being looked at to celebrate a great tradition, a great party and then also to be able to prepare the football club for the years to come in a very, very competitive environment."

Bauer did not get specific yesterday about ticket prices, whose high costs were blamed for 7,000 empty seats at the 1998 Grey Cup in Winnipeg. Single tickets for this year's Grey Cup in Ottawa cost $279, $239 or $199.

"We'll work with the league to make sure we have the proper price points," Bauer said, "but it's no secret that the popularity of the league has improved and people are very, very interested."

The club plans to have between 40,000 and 50,000 seats for the game, which would force the erection of temporary seating since the Stadium's current capacity is 29,503.

There were 41,000 seats available for the '98 Grey Cup.

"I know the league would certainly like to see it getting closer to the 50,000 range because they've had three Grey Cups in the last three years that have all been 50,000-plus," Bauer said. "Those are numbers that they're targeting and there is that ability, however we do want a sold-out and full venue."


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