Ticket Prices Not To Blame For Slow Grey Cup Sales

The Winnipeg Football Club announced this past Friday that just 25,576 tickets have been sold for the 2015 Grey Cup.

Uh, what now?

With an expanded capacity originally projected to reach 40,000 seats, Investors Group Field would be just 64 percent sold out had the Blue Bomber organization not decided to scrap its plans to add temporary seating along the stadium’s north concourse. With a new projected capacity of roughly 36,600, the game is now 70 percent sold out — still a disappointing figure considering kickoff is just three months away.

The club explained its decision to eliminate almost 3,500 temporary seats by announcing that the Grey Cup’s pre-game and halftime shows have been moved from their traditional location at midfield to the stadium’s north concourse. The Bombers claim this was done to “ensure fans … [have] the opportunity to fully enjoy … the world class entertainment that accompanies the game.”

Consider me skeptical.

Having musical acts located in the north concourse will make it virtually impossible for fans sitting in sections 137-144 to enjoy the performances. The 3,500 to 4,000 patrons in these sections will be forced to stand backwards in their seats if they hope to catch a glimpse of the live acts, something that may not be possible when the slope of the seats is taken into account.

Source: Ticketmaster

Logistic lunacy aside, it’s clear that the Blue Bomber organization cancelled the addition of 3,500 temporary seats for one reason only: they feared the extra seats wouldn’t sell.

Given the sloppy execution of Friday’s announcement, it’s reasonable to assume the decision to cancel the installation of the north concourse seats was made very recently by the Winnipeg Football Club. The Bombers failed to update their Grey Cup 2015 FAQS webpage ahead of the announcement (they have still yet to do so as of the publishing of this article) or notify those who had purchased tickets in the eliminated seating of the changes ahead of time. Fans who took to social media to inquire about their now-cancelled seats were told that they would be “allocated [to] comparable alternate seats … in the South Skyview stands … [and] contacted within 10 business days.”

Needless to say, poor Grey Cup ticket sales are a huge concern for an organization that is currently working its way towards repaying a stadium construction loan still north of $80 million dollars. Cold weather cities with open-air stadiums don’t get many chances to host championship games — when such an opportunity arises, the game can’t not sellout. It’s simply not an option.

Though there are many factors that have contributed to this year’s poor Grey Cup ticket sales — the aforementioned cold weather being one of them — the primary complaint I’ve heard from fellow CFL fans is the price of tickets. I received dozens of tweets from both local and non-local CFL fans following Friday’s announcement who claimed they would have purchased Grey Cup tickets had they been priced more reasonably. In the interest of determining whether or not the Bombers have priced themselves out of the market, I decided to compare the prices of Winnipeg’s upcoming Grey Cup tickets to those sold for Regina’s Grey Cup two years ago. As the only recent Grey Cup played in both a similar climate and venue (size-wise, at least), 2013’s championship game is the only reasonable comparable for this year’s event.

2013 Grey Cup 2015 Grey Cup
Orange (~500) $500 ($500) Box Seating (unknown) Unknown
Green (~18,000) $349 ($399) Platinum (~3,000) $399 ($499)
White (~3,500) $299 ($349) Premium (~14,000) $299 ($399)
Red (~8,000) $249 ($299) Gold (~5,000) $249 ($349)
Black (~7,000) $199 ($239) Blue (~11,500) $199 ($299)
Grey (~3,000) $149 ($179) Skyview Endzone (~3,000) $175 (N/A)
 Average Ticket: $285.26 ($331.39) Average Ticket: $258.67 ($350.45)

As we can see, the pricing between the two games is almost identical for season ticket holders (note: pricing for season ticket holders is the first number listed in columns two and four; pricing for non-season tickets holders is labeled adjacently in parentheses). Fans will be spending just $26 more to sit in temporary seats at the 2015 Grey Cup than they did in 2013, while the price of Winnipeg’s 14,000 ‘Premium’ seats is actually lower than Regina’s 18,000 equivalent ‘Green’ seats for season ticket holders.

All things being taken consideration, the pricing between the two events is very consistent. Non-season ticket holders will be charged almost twenty dollars more to attend the game in Winnipeg (Regina’s average ticket was $331.39, while Winnipeg’s is $350.45), while season ticket holders will pay almost thirty dollars less (Regina’s average such ticket was $285.26, while Winnipeg’s will cost just $258.67). All in all, the numbers match-up well.*

Considering the extra amenities offered by a state-of-the-art facility like Investors Group Field, I feel the pricing for the 2015 Grey Cup is reasonable. Are the tickets cheap? Of course not — but they shouldn’t be. The Grey Cup is Canada’s largest annual sporting event and this season marks just the fourth time the city of Winnipeg has been given the opportunity to host it. It’s also worth noting that between new or refurbished stadiums in Hamilton, Ottawa, and Saskatchewan (and possibly Calgary in the near future) and a new ownership group in Toronto that’s sure to receive its fair share of hosting opportunities, it’s unlikely Winnipeg will get to host another Grey Cup for at least ten to twelve years.

In a market where hockey fans pay an average of almost $120.00 to attend Winnipeg Jets regular season games, it’s unrealistic to blame this year’s poor Grey Cup ticket sales on the frugality of Winnipeggers. Whether it’s the cold weather or the blue and gold’s disappointing 3-5 record keeping fans away, the Winnipeg Football Club needs to find a way to sell out the 2015 Grey Cup game. The pricing is steep, but it’s fair. Wade Miller and his fellow front office staff now have just 97 days to move 11,000 tickets for a game the Bombers are unlikely to be in.

Good luck, guys. You just might need it.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk

Email: [email protected]

*For those curious about other Grey Cup ticket prices, the 2012 and 2014 Grey Cup games in Toronto and Vancouver, respectfully, had average ticket costs of roughly $270 dollars, not including the applicable taxes and service fees. The prices for the 2013 and 2015 Grey Cup games have these added expenses included.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.