It’s almost as if 2009 never happened.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers held their annual season preview conference call with the national media on Wednesday, and they reported that season ticket sales have reached 17,000.
“We’re ahead of last year,” Bombers president Jim Bell said. “Comparing it on a timeline, we’re about a month ahead of where we were this time last year. That speaks volumes to how our fans think about this football team and the direction it’s going.
“When the club announced Joe Mack as the general manager and vice-president and then shortly thereafter Paul LaPolice as the head coach, the season tickets and the corporate numbers really skyrocketed.
“I’ll level with you: I was somewhat worried when we were sitting back in November with what we were doing compared to previous years.”
Not many would have predicted strong ticket sales after a disastrous 2009 campaign in which the team missed the playoffs, and head coach Mike Kelly clashed with fans and media before being fired in December.
Also helping the organization’s sales pitch this off-season was last month’s announcement that the team is getting a new home at the University of Manitoba in 2012 to replace 57-year-old Canad Inns Stadium.
“We saw a little bit of a spike,” Bell said, adding the always important 18-to-25 age demographic appears to be particularly excited about the new park.
The two men brought in to run football operations, Mack and LaPolice, don’t want to talk about what was bad in 2009. Instead, they would prefer to discuss what will be good in 2010.
LaPolice said he interviewed 95% of the team, and asked the players who they trusted in the locker-room and what changes they wanted to see.
“You want to move on from the past, but you always want to include your players in conversations and try to hear from them,” LaPolice said. “We had some great conversations out of that.”
The players, for instance, wanted new shower heads, so the team purchased new ones. They also wanted more computers to watch film, so LaPolice made it happen. They may not be big changes, but LaPolice is hoping they add up.
“We’re trying to address those things so the players can see when they come to training camp we’ve listened to any concerns they’ve had and we fixed them,” he said.
“Our job is to put them in a position to be successful, and that’s what we’re trying to do from week to week.”
In other Bomber news:
- The team announced the signings of Canadian offensive lineman Darren Hinds and import defensive tackle LaDarien Scott on Wednesday.
Hinds, 22, started all but one game at centre for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies over the last two years, while Scott, 22, had 20 tackles and a sack in 11 games for the Louisville Cardinals in 2007.
“Our roster’s pretty close to being set,” Mack said. “We will get all of our draft picks signed, and we feel really positive about the depth we have on our roster and what the coaching staff will be able to develop as we go into training camp.”
- Mack said he expects to have negotiation list quarterback Alex Brink, acquired on Sunday in a draft day trade with Hamilton, signed within a week.
- Kelly Butler is officially a Bomber again after the Arena Football League’s Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz released him from their roster.
The 6-foot-8, 350-pound import offensive lineman signed with Winnipeg in March, but the CFL voided the contract after it learned he was under contract with the Yard Dawgz.
- Finally, here is LaPolice take on what kind of attitude the Bombers will bring to the football field in 2010: “Arrogant is not a word we like to use. The word we like to use is confident. We’re going to be confident bordering on arrogant.”