Organizers of Calgary’s Grey Cup are locked in a tough ground game to reach the end zone for a sell-out.
With six weeks to go before the Nov. 24 CFL championship clash, plenty of unsold McMahon Stadium seats remain.
There’s some public speculation the ticket sales will fall 3,000 to 4,000 short of the 36,000-seat Grey Cup game capacity, “but we think we’ll go further as people get more excited,” said Mike Franco, chairman of the 2019 Grey Cup Festival.
“We won’t coast into it, we’re going to work at it … as an organizing committee, we expect to sell out.”
Franco said he didn’t want to reveal how many seats are unsold “because that gets into a death watch” mindset.
Some local footballs fans have complained — amid a slumping economy — about what they see as the high price of game tickets, which went on sale May 7. They start at $119 in the top four corners of the stadium and up to $419 for the most expensive seats.
Discounts are available for season tickets holders who’ve renewed them for next year.
Those less expensive tickets, said Franco, are about $100 below what similar seats were priced the last time Calgary hosted the Grey Cup a decade ago.
The recent announcement of country superstar Keith Urban as the game’s half-time entertainment has not only boosted ticket sales, it makes their price a better value, he said.
“Urban’s a huge, huge plus … when you look at it as an entry point to see the Grey Cup game and a Keith Urban concert, it’s remarkable,” said Franco, who’s president of the Calgary Stampeders.
But the biggest factor in ensuring McMahon Stadium is filled for the championship tilt lies in the hands of the defending champions, the Calgary Stampeders who are in a tough fight to claim first place in the CFL’s western conference, he said.
“I tell (Stampeders General Manager John) Hufnagel he’d be the best market strategy,” said Franco.
“Though if Saskatchewan’s in it, we’d see the stadium just as green as red.”
Unlike the 2009 Grey Cup, organizers aren’t adding 10,000 temporary bleacher seats to McMahon, choosing instead to install late-season suites in the north end zone that will accommodate far fewer.
That’s to ensure less congestion in the stadium’s notoriously constricted concourse.
“We’ve really tried to listen to the fans, we don’t want to put the load on the building,” said Franco.
Most of the higher-end seats have been sold out, said Franco, leaving the middle-value spots the most available.
The game deserves to be a sell-out, said former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Lee Knight, who’s coming to Calgary for probably his 10th post-career Grey Cup.
“It’s the national championship, a national celebration,” said Knight, a Ticat from 1986 to 1997.
The former CFL fullback said he came away with a very different impression after attending the 2012 Super Bowl game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
“It was not even close to the national celebration that the Grey Cup is, it was really just San Francisco and Baltimore fans and people with lots of money,” he said.
If Hamilton makes it to the CFL final, there’ll be a considerable contingent from the Steel City heading for Calgary in late November, added Franco.