With every passing day, it becomes more and more likely that the NHL will be returning to Winnipeg. With all the excitement kicked up by the return of the city’s beloved Jets, there are still several questions that remain unanswered.
One of these questions is the effect that a competing professional sports franchise will have on the city’s current pro sports team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
A recent report by The Globe and Mail on the viability of an NHL team in Winnipeg named the presence of the Bombers as the biggest factor in the Jets’ success. According to the author, to support a NHL team, a Canadian city would need a population of roughly 800,000, compared to only 250,000 for a CFL team.
Immediately this raises red flags, as the population of Winnipeg is approximately 750,000 people. The article goes on to state that it is likely that the sports fans of the cities will have to decide between the two teams; those who pay for one team’s season tickets will not be able to afford the others, and vice versa.
This represents a potential loss of revenue that, while potentially dangerous to the Jets, could be fatal to the Bombers. Both leagues are heavily driven by attendance and ticket sales, but this is even more true in the case of the CFL, which lacks substantial television revenue and—for the seven teams not named the Roughriders—merchandise sales.
It is of note to mention that the Blue Bombers only sell out last year was the Banjo Bowl against the Roughriders, and in some games they played to as little as 22,000 people. Now, obviously, the changes in attendance can be attributed to several things; the weather at the end of the season, a lack of interest due to a poor season, etc., but these figures should represent a scare for a franchise that usually spends every year walking a thin line between profit and loss.
These attendance issues could potentially become worse if the Jets return next year. Hockey reigns supreme in Canada and despite Canadian football’s popularity in the region no one will suggest that the Bombers will be able to compete with the Jets for Winnipegger’s interest.
The Blue Bombers will be facing an uphill battle for revenue and interest and could potentially be relegated to also-rans in the city’s sports community.
That’s not to say the team will be in any danger of leaving Winnipeg. Construction for the team’s new stadium has already begun and, despite the fact the team does not sell out, they currently have one of the more stable ownerships in the league.
The chances of the team having to move or fold are as likely at this point as an owner stepping in and keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta. However, all fans need to be aware that, with the arrival of the Jets will come new difficulties and hardships for a team that is barely profitable in the years when they make the Grey Cup.
And these difficulties could bring about bad times for the Bombers and the CFL.