Blue Bombers open CFL season in new stadium

The 2013 CFL season kicked off Thursday night as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosted the Montreal Alouettes in the league's newest stadium.

Bombers hosted Montreal Alouettes at Investors Group Field

The field at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' new stadium, Investors Group Field, just before kickoff in the team's regular-season opener against the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The 2013 CFL season kicked off Thursday night as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosted the Montreal Alouettes in the league's newest stadium.

The $200-million Investors Group Field (IGF), on the University of Manitoba campus in south Winnipeg, played host to an exhibition matchup between Winnipeg and Toronto on June 12.

The Bombers dropped the ball in the pseudo-Christening of the new stadium, losing 24-6 to the Argonauts.

But Thursday night's matchup was the inaugural regular-season game for IGF — the one that counts.

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This CFL season also marked the start of 40-year-old Anthony Calvillo's 20th season in the league, and his 16th as quarterback for Montreal.

Calvillo, who became pro football's all-time passing leader in 2011, could reach 6,000 completions and 80,000 yards this year.

Meanwhile, the Bombers simply hope their starting QB Buck Pierce can stay unbroken. Last year, he played just three games before getting hurt. He then came back eight games later but got hurt again.

His back-ups from last year, Joey Elliott and Alex Brink, are gone. Justin Goltz, the new No. 2, played only three games last season.

Traffic, parking woes resolved?

Many of those who went to Thursday's game reported a relatively smooth ride to Investors Group Field, in stark contrast to the traffic and parking problems that plagued the June 12 pre-season game.

Fans generally had no complaints about the traffic heading to the stadium, whether they were driving, walking, cycling or taking transit there, the CBC's Marjorie Dowhos reported at 7 p.m.

Many credited volunteers with directing fans on where to park and where to go, along with the fact that stadium officials are letting motorists into the parking lot earlier.

Fans like Chris Cobbett, a season-ticket holder, said they're trying not to worry too much about getting to the game and back.

"If you're a true fan, you're not going to be too concerned with it. You got to realize there's going to be hiccups," Cobbett told CBC News earlier on Thursday.

"This is the first time going through it. They don't know what to expect. So as long as it keeps getting better and it doesn't go backwards, I'm fine with it."

No-parking zones are being enforced on residential streets near the stadium. Some cars that are illegally parked had warnings put on their windshields.

Earlier this week, stadium officials said they believe they have solved the majority of traffic, transit and parking-related issues that came up in the pre-season game.

They estimated about 33,400 fans would pack the stadium for Thursday night's game. Winnipeg Transit has hoped about a third of the fans will take the bus to and from the stadium.

Flag raiser

Don Ramage, 87, will raise the flag June 27 at Investors Group Field for the Blue Bombers' season-opening game, which is the inaugural game at the new stadium. (Alana Cole/CBC)

Longtime Bomber season-ticket holder Don Ramage, 87, raised the flag as the game got underway.

The die-hard fan has been a ticket holder for 67 years and has taken in 41 CFL Grey Cup games. After all that time, he said Thursday's game would give him a brand-new experience.

"It's going to be something to be down on the field level and look up and see the people instead of sitting there and looking down," he said earlier in the day.

"So for those few minutes, I'll see something different."

Another fan who was looking forward to Thursday's game was Tim Weselak, who was born in Winnipeg but now lives in Florida. He has come to town to see the Bombers play in their new home.

"This is pretty exciting to see the new venue here in Winnipeg. I'm happy for the people of Winnipeg," he said.