2017 Canada Games all but avoids Investors Group Field

The largest sports venue in Winnipeg will only see limited action during next summer's Canada Games.

Winnipeg's largest sporting venue will be used for closing ceremonies - and that's it

Investors Group Field served as a venue for the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015. Its use for the 2017 Canada Games will be limited to the closing ceremonies. (Bert Savard/CBC)

The largest sports venue in Winnipeg will only see limited action during next summer's Canada Games.

Investors Group Field will serve as the venue for the closing ceremonies at the 2017 games, which are expected to bring 4,000 athletes to Winnipeg over two weeks.

But for only the second time in the 50-year history of the games, the opening ceremonies will be held indoors, at MTS Centre, according to Jeff Hnatiuk, president and CEO of the 2017 Canada Games.

All the athletic events at the games will be held at 19 other venues — and that list doesn't include Winnipeg's three-year-old, $209-million football stadium.

Hnatiuk said this is not a snub, as the host committee only considered Investors Group Field for the closing ceremonies as well as soccer finals which are now slated for the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex on Waverley Street.

He said the opening ceremonies will be held indoors at MTS Centre because that event tends to draw arena-sized audiences.

"The draw is anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 people for an opening ceremonies," Hnatiuk said. "A 15,000-seat venue probably makes more sense."

Hnatiuk said the Canada Games host committee hopes the opening ceremonies will draw better numbers in Winnipeg because 2017 marks both the 50th Canada Games and the nation's 150th birthday.

Patrick Roberge Productions, the Vancouver-based firm planning the closing ceremonies, may book a name act for event to mark the end of the games, which are slated for July 28 to Aug. 13, 2017.

"We really are hoping from a closing-ceremonies perspective we're going to be able to do something that really engages the community in a significant way," Hnatiuk said.

The respective costs of renting MTS Centre and Investors Group Field for one night are comparable, he said. But it may cost more to produce ceremonies in the larger, outdoor venue, he added.

Winnipeg Football Club president and CEO Wade Miller, whose Canadian Football League franchise manages Investors Group Field, said the minimal use of the venue will not impact the team's bottom line next year.

He said the Canada Games host committee had the option of using IGF for other events.

"That's up to them in what venues they want to use in the city and we have great venues. We look forward to hosting the closing ceremonies, which will be a large event at Investors Group Field," Miller said.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are asking the CFL to schedule a Bomber home game one week after the Canada Games wrap up, Miller added. That would allow the volunteers and athletes at the amateur sporting games be honoured at the stadium, he added.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said the decision to host the opening ceremonies at MTS Centre, while up to the host committee, takes spectators indoors on a summer night.

"My default is obviously outside," said Bowman when asked where he would prefer to be on a night in July.

"It is going to be the hottest summer in Canada in a number of years and of course we want to see people enjoy Winnipeg. But MTS Centre is a different venue."