, local fans certainly did not want to miss out on the whiteout, or the parties that go hand-in-hand with the playoff hockey.
In the first round of the postseason, the Jets hosted the Minnesota Wild three times at Bell MTS Place. The environment was otherworldly: absolutely raucous inside the arena, and invigoratingly boisterous outside.
For those unable to secure tickets to the games themselves were invited to join in on a ‘Winnipeg Whiteout street party’ – a gathering of fans outside of Bell MTS Place to watch the festivities on massive screens, while comfortably enjoying alcoholic beverages and food from nearby food carts and vendors.
The attendance at the first round street parties grew from 14,000 to 16,000 to 19,000 by the third game.
The second round saw the arrival of a giant 25-foot Budweiser goal light – an attraction that would like up at the time of each Jets goal, while providing an excellent backdrop for any white-clad Winnipegger looking for the perfect photoshoot.
True North Sports and Entertainment also teamed up with the Canadian Air Forces for the second round, delivering a flyby over Donald Street prior to puck drop of game one, featuring two CF-18 fighter jets.
The street parties saw tighter security, with the arrival of a #WpgWHITEOUT team bus, dump trucks and other barricades at the entrances, along with the addition of S.W.A.T. personnel stationed around the arena and nearby facilities.
A family area was developed for the land surrounding the Millennium Library and the adjacent park – an area with limits on alcohol and rowdiness. Larger screens were implemented, more vendors arrived on the scene, an exceptional amount of porta-potties were also shipped in, while Winnipeg Harvest also began collecting non-perishable food item donations for Manitoba’s less fortunate.
Once again, the size of the crowds continued to grow, topping out at roughly 25,000 for the sixth game of the second round.
True North and Economic Development Winnipeg determined that action had to be taken due to crowd control issues, overflow and sizing regulations, and to ensure that the street party did not lose its liquor license. So the decision was made to ‘sell’ tickets online, granting entrance to fans wanting to observe games one and two of the third round from the Winnipeg Whiteout street party, only when presenting a ticket at the gates.
Tickets were sold on Ticketmaster.ca free of charge. A maximum of eight tickets could be selected per transaction. The 27,000 tickets available for game one sold out in less than an hour’s time, prompting and outrage from fans across the city. Tickets for the whiteout party immediately began popping up online for resale, with prices climbing as high as $150 per ticket.
After tickets to games one and two sold out, True North was forced to release an additional 10,000 tickets online. Making matters worse is the fact that of the 64,000 tickets claimed for games one and two, only 40 percent – or 25,500 fans total – showed up between games one and two for the street party – with an all-time low 11,000 coming out for the second game of the series.
In learning from their key organizational errors, True North and Economic Development Winnipeg announced that 37,500 tickets would be made available for the game five street party Sunday set for 2:00 P.M.
The capacity of the event will once again top off at 27,000 attendees. Tickets will be available at the entrance gates to the whiteout party, while others will be free to claim at the Bell MTS Place box office. Those fans with tickets to the game will also be granted access to the street party.
Winnipeg Harvest will once again be collecting donations, but backpacks are no longer allowed within the gates. Donations must be provided by way of a plastic shopping bag, or some other disposable method. Gates will open at 12 noon Sunday.
Bell MTS Place continues to host viewing parties for all Jets road games, as fans can enter the arena for $10 (all of which is donated to the True North Youth Foundation) and observe the game on the jumbotron.
Currently down 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals, Winnipeg plays game four in Vegas Friday evening. The puck will be dropped at approximately 7:20 P.M. central time at T-Mobile Arena.
By Carter Brooks
Photos by James Carey Lauder, Jonathan Kozub, Jeff Miller and Carter Brooks