Thousands of tickets left unused for Monday's Winnipeg whiteout party
Attendance slumps to 11,000 people at downtown street party despite issuing 36,000 tickets
The whiteout is waning.
The size of the city's once-spontaneous street party adjacent to Winnipeg Jets playoff games has declined sharply for the second game in a row following the introduction of a ticketing policy.
Economic Development Winnipeg said 11,000 people showed up for the festivities in outside the Jets' arena in downtown Winnipeg on Monday.
After peaking at 21,000 white-clad boosters last week for Game 6 of the second-round series against the Nashville Predators, organizers introduced free tickets in response to an expected increase in the number of revellers watching the Western Conference Final, which got underway on Saturday.
Instead, the opposite happened.
A crowd of 15,000 people attended the outdoor party on Saturday for Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights — several thousand fewer than organizers expected.
In response, party planners made 10,000 additional tickets available for Monday's viewing party "based on the ratio of tickets redeemed versus those issued," hosts Economic Development Winnipeg said on Twitter.
Only 11,000 of the 36,000 tickets were redeemed on Monday. Site capacity is 27,000.
Despite the attendance decline, scalpers making a buck on free tickets, and social media backlash, an official with True North Sports & Entertainment said Monday he's satisfied with the ticketing arrangement.
"We've adopted the policy. It's working. We have people coming onto the site," Kevin Donnelly, vice-president of True North Sports & Entertainment, told CBC Winnipeg News at 6.
He didn't blame tickets entirely for the slumping crowd size. The weather and day of the week also contribute to attendance, he said.
Cautious approach necessary: TNSE
"We would rather err on the side of caution," Donnelly said. "We would rather not max out that distribution, learn what the uptake was going to be from our audience and adjust on the fly."
None of the previous parties reached the capacity that was part of organizers' rationale, along with security and policing, for implementing a ticketing policy.
Donnelly, however, said the ability to host these parties is not infinite.
"Operationally, we will hit a limit on a number of levels."
Major city events, including the viewing parties, require permits that are overseen by a special events committee made up of representatives from city and provincial departments, including the Winnipeg Police Service.
Matt Schaubroeck, spokesperson with Economic Development Winnipeg, said the stakeholders are meeting on Tuesday to debrief.
"We're reviewing whether it's possible to have other options all stakeholders are happy with," he said when asked whether future parties would be adjusted in some way.
Organizers have disagreed publicly over the ticketing policy. Economic Development Winnipeg said police mandated the tickets, but police said they simply wanted capacity to be limited.
Police said there were no major issues at any previous street parties.
Many Jets fans are disappointed by the ticketing process.
Joe Cabral told CBC he got a ticket for Saturday's street party from a friend, but didn't expect to find a ticket in time for Monday's party.
"I understand there might be some security concerns or what have you, but there's a lot of potential for abuse," he said about the ticketing process.
"There's sort of like a rallying cry out there that these tickets should be free and there's a lot of shaming of scalpers going on."
Greg Holland believes the policy hurts the city, which has garnered lots of publicity for its packed street parties.
"If they want to [promote] everything — the city of Winnipeg, downtown — everybody should be welcome," he said.
"Stop trying to fix something that isn't broke," wrote Vicki Mailman on CBC Manitoba's Facebook page. "Everything worked fine before this ridiculous ticketing."
With files from Austin Grabish