By Shaun Haney
Many people in Manitoba are very excited about the possibility of the NHL returning to Winnipeg in the fall. There is very good reason to be excited and euphoric about the team that could return from Phoenix after no one ever thought that they would return. One of the concerns about the Winnipeg Jets returning is that the rink is too small, there is not enough corporate suites and the corporate community may not be big enough.
As many of you already know it is always a bonus when families and small companies purchase tickets from the local NHL club. What makes an NHL franchise viable over the long term is the corporate support in the form of suites, sponsorships and large ticket bundles. Fans come and go but corporations tend to bring big dollars and long term money. This is where agriculture’s role in the return of the Jets comes into play. Many of the the Canadian headquarters of our largest Canadian agriculture operations are in Winnipeg due to it being the home of the Canadian grain business. With the MTS Center being undersized in comparison to most new NHL rinks and limited amount of corporate suites, the average prices of the tickets and suites is going to have to more expensive. This will limit the participation of “regular” people and put a lot of pressure on the corporate community to step up and get behind the team.
Sure there are many non-ag corporations in Winnipeg but the support of the Jets by companies like Viterra, Cargill, Monsanto, Canadian Wheat Board, and Richardsons will be critical to the success of the franchise in the long term. We have seen agriculture companies more involved in sports lately with Becker Underwood‘s sponsorship of the Saskatchgewan RoughRiders and Dow AgroSciences recent support of the CFL nationally. I am a season ticket holder in Calgary and last year there was not an agriculture sponsor in the building but there are many different agriculture companies that have tickets or even suites. Calgary is fortunate to have the oil industry that props up the stability of the franchise and all the pressure is not put on agriculture.
This week I tweeted questions about agriculture’s needed support of the Jets and here are some of the responses I got from farmers.
Does Winnipeg have another industry other than agriculture to help soften the blow for the ag industry or will companies like Richardson’s and Cargill need to commit huge portions of their sales and marketing budgets to the new version of the Winnipeg Jets? The Jets look like they are coming back so Winnipeg and the corporate community better figure out what makes them stay even with the Thompsons (the new Jets owners) have mega dollars. Owners only like to lose money for so long before the next “save the Jets” campaign begins. Agricultural corporations better get out their wallets or the new Winnipeg Jets will only be making a short lay over before they head out to Quebec City or Southern Ontario.