Whiteout parties to cost $5 this playoff season
Winnipeggers will show up if they commit the money, True North says
The whiteout parties outside Winnipeg Jets playoff games are no longer free.
It will cost $5 to attend a street party outside Bell MTS Place during the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, True North Sports & Entertainment announced Monday as it unveiled plans for the events, which attracted thousands of fans last season.
In 2018, the street parties started out as free events and quickly mushroomed in size to the point where the Winnipeg Police Service requested a means of capping the attendance at the events.
True North then asked fans to reserve free tickets to the parties — a move that reduced attendance when some ticket holders declined to show up.
The $5 admission price will give fans an incentive to use a reserved ticket, True North vice president Kevin Donnelly said at a news conference in the upper concourse at Bell MTS Place.
"People in Winnipeg won't waste $5," Donnelly said.
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All proceeds from the street-party ticket sales will be forwarded to the United Way to spend on homelessness and mental-health programming, said Dayna Spiring, CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg. If True North derives any tax benefit from the donation, it will make another donation, equal to that amount, to the United Way, True North vice-president Rob Wozny said.
The first street party will be capped at 15,000 people, not including Jets' ticket holders. Those tickets go on sale on April 8 at Ticketmaster and the Jets' box office, Donnelly said. There will be a maximum of four per customer and no service charges will be added by Ticketmaster, Wozny said.
The United Way will distribute 500 of those tickets for free. As well, anyone with a ticket to a home playoff game will be admitted to the street party for free if they choose to enter it.
The City of Winnipeg and True North are working on three configurations for the parties, depending on fan interest, Donnelly said. The largest configuration would accommodate 25,000 people.
Last year's experience demonstrated fans with tickets to Bell MTS Place would arrive earlier than street-party participants, allowing enough room to accommodate both groups.
In 2018, the street parties cost $2.2 million through three playoff rounds. The city, Economic Development Winnipeg and True North split the cost.
After the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Jets in the western final, Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said his service would require more planning this year.
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Deputy Chief Gord Perrier said that planning has taken place but would not disclose how many police officers would be assigned to the whiteout parties. He also could not say whether this year's plans would alleviate police overtime costs.
In total, nine whiteout parties in 2018 cost $2,167,000 to host. Of that total, Economic Development Winnipeg paid $120,000 and the City of Winnipeg incurred $962,000 in costs that were covered with cash from existing budget line items.
True North spent $1,084,900, including $931,900 of production costs and a $153,000 contribution to the City of Winnipeg to help with policing and transit costs.
The province spent $2,000 through Travel Manitoba.
This year, there will be more corporate sponsorship and provincial funding for the events. Tim Hortons has signed on as a title sponsor and the province will provide more support, Spiring said.
Sport Minister Cathy Cox and her aides attended Monday's announcement.
It's unclear when the first street parties will take place. The Winnipeg Jets, which have lost three straight games, are not guaranteed home advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jets could begin the playoffs at home on or around April 10 or start on the road in St. Louis or Nashville.
Winnipeg could clinch home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs by winning their four remaining games of the season.