Winnipeg scores success with Grey Cup game

The B.C. Lions are taking home the Grey Cup after Sunday's game, but event hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were also counting themselves as winners of the successful event.

45,000 fans pack stadium; organizers expect to reap $3 million

The B.C. Lions are taking home the Grey Cupafter Sunday's game, but event hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were also countingthemselves as winners ofthe successful event.

The Bombers are still adding up the numbers, but president Lyle Bauer said Monday the team will enjoy a profit of at least $2.5 million from hosting the Grey Cup championship.

"We set a new standard and the bar's been raised a little bit, as far as festivals, game-day production and events," Bauer told reporters on Monday.

"Obviously we can't necessarily control what happens on the field, but I think people had a very, very good week. [As] a matter of fact, a great week in many aspects."

The team will release final financial numbers in its annual report in March.

Eventhe -7 C temperatures didn't deter football fans from enjoying the 94th Grey Cup, which the Lions won 25-14 over the Montreal Alouettes.

"Great hospitality, weather is fantastic, the Lions will take it," said B.C. fan Shawn Madigan, wearing bright orange coveralls and a bison-covered Viking hat.

"We can come back to Winnipeg for every Grey Cup, as far as I'm concerned," jubilant B.C. Lions quarterback Dave Dickensontold CBC Newsafter the game.

All 44,786 tickets to the Canadian Football League's championship game at Canad Inns Stadium were sold before the weekend. It was a major improvement from the last time Winnipeg hosted the event, in 1998, a year when attendance reached its lowest in 23 years, with about 34,000 seats sold.

Winnipeg also was host in 1991.

Grey Cup committee co-chair David Asper saidthat Sunday's big game, as well as several days of festivities leading up to the event, went off without a hitch.

"There was the usual sort of run-of-the-mill small things. But nothing got bigger than it needed to get," Asper said Sunday.

"And you know, I think people were very happy. And the events worked great, and I think we had bigger crowds than we anticipated. The parade was huge and it's all gone great."

Volunteers 'did their thing'

More than100,000 people watched the Manitoba Hydro Grey Cup Parade along Portage Avenue on Saturday afternoon.

Pre-game festivities also included evening partiesfeaturing performances by Sam Roberts, 54-40 and Doc Walker,concerts by Kenny Rogers and Tom Cochrane, team parties and family fun events.

Asper credited the efforts of event volunteers and Winnipeggers in general for the weekend's success.

"Winnipeg is a well-trained city. First of all, we like to have fun. So this is a fun event and that's a natural fit," he said.

"But we're also pros at putting on major events. And about 1,000 volunteers stepped up and they did their thing."

Man falls over railing during game

Winnipeg police said they were happy overall with the way fans behaved Sunday night, with one minor glitch: a man fell over a railing on the east side of Canad Inns stadium during the Grey Cup.

The man, who fell a short distance, was in stable condition in hospital with minor injuries.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 clients of Winnipeg's food bank also took in the game at the city's largest venue Sunday. Organizers with the MTS Centre played thematch on jumbo television screens.

"I think it's great that people can come here, and it's nice and warm in here. Have a great meal, watch it on the big screen. Beats the stadium, I think," said Montreal Alouettes fan Donnie Grey.

"It's warmer than they are where they paid so much money for a seat," said Nikki Evans, whocalled the event "awesome."

The party idea was considered such a good one that there is talk it could become a regular feature at all future Grey Cup events.It stems from a conversation MTS Centre general manager Kevin Donnelly said he had with a friend only a couple of weeks earlier.

"He kind of dared me. He said, 'Why don't you open the building to people that can't really participate in the stadium event, which starts at $150?' And I couldn't come up with a reason not to, you know?" Donnelly said Sunday.

Donnelly enlisted plenty of volunteers to turn the MTS Centre into a giant rec room,stocked with chips and soft drinks. He also got enough donations of food and other goods, includinga hot buffet.

In fact, Donnelly said, the MTS Centre received so many unexpected donations thathe may be able to hand an early Christmas gift to Winnipeg Harvest.

"As it looks now, I think we are going to be able to turn in excess of $5,000 over to the food bank in cash," he said.

Harvest clients who attended the MTS Centre party were in a much different mood, saidDavid Northcott, executive co-ordinator of Winnipeg Harvest.

"Celebrating! Cheering and yelling, and singing O Canada. It was really great," Northcott said. "The only thing sweeter would be the Bombers playing."