April 11, 2024

WFC announce operating profit of $5.7 million

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are as healthy as the franchise has ever been in its long and storied history, with a robust bottom line bolstered again by record numbers in gate revenue, corporate sponsorship, and merchandise sales.

The club released its 2023 annual report Thursday, highlighted by an operating profit of $5.7 million. That’s a jump from the $4.9 million profit announced in 2022 and up from the $2.1 million profit after the pandemic-shortened 2021 Canadian Football League season.

“It’s just a great day after another positive year,” said Blue Bombers President & CEO Wade Miller. “We couldn’t really ask for much more from our fans, our corporate partners, and the entire community.

“With every game in every season you keep saying, ‘It can’t get much better’ and it just keeps getting better every year. We’re seeing the evidence of it in our financial results.”

Club revenue totalled $50.5 million in 2023, an increase of $5.1 million, or 11.2%. Gate receipts reached a record high of $15.1 million, up 9.6% from 2022, while game day, merchandise and concessions are also at an all-time high of $11.5 million – a $1.1 million jump and 10.5% increase from 2022.

The club is allocating $5 million to the capital fund to help maintain and upgrade Princess Auto Stadium, including a seven-figure investment in new turf for the 2024 season, new suite level ring-board advertising along with a new permanent stage and barbecue section in the tailgate area. An additional $1 million has been allocated to the club’s operating reserve. The capital fund balance was at $9.6 million at the close of the year, with the operating reserve at $6.6 million at year end.

The WFC has seen significant growth since Miller became President & CEO in August of 2013 and under the current football operations regime of GM Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea. The team has appeared in the last four Grey Cup games, winning in 2019 and 2021, and is 51-17 over the last four years, including 29-7 in 2022 and 2023.

The Blue Bombers have led the CFL in attendance in each of the last two seasons, with last year’s average at 30,449 and featuring five consecutive sellouts to end the campaign and two more crowds in excess of 30,000. Dating back to the fall of 2018 and including playoffs, the Blue Bombers are on an incredible 37-3 run at home.

“There’s a momentum behind this now and it’s what we all worked for over those years to get it to where it’s rolling,” said Miller. “It takes time to do that and to do it the right way.

“We’re going to keep it rolling. We dreamed about it, but more importantly we put goals and steps in place to achieve it. It’s the hard work being done every day by everyone in our organization, from our coaches to our scouts and everybody in football operations to everybody in business and stadium operations and the over 1,000 game-day employees and fan ambassadors that help make the fan experience special.”

“Winning is something that pushes you over the top and that’s something we’ve seen over the last few years. But we’ve always said it’s more than a football game, it’s an event. You don’t have to be a football fan to come to Princess Auto Stadium and enjoy what goes on here on game days. And if you come to a few games, it’s easy to become a football fan. It’s Manitoba’s largest event, 10 times a year.”

Miller said ticket sales – season tickets, flex packs and mini-packs – are all trending up again this season, with single game tickets going on sale on April 19th. So, too, are the corporate sponsorship numbers, bolstered in part by the new stadium naming rights deal with Princess Auto.

“We had a record-breaking year in corporate partnerships and our momentum is even stronger now with Princess Auto as our new stadium naming rights partner, with Access Credit Union on board as our jersey patch sponsor,” said Miller. “And we have another announcement coming soon with another major partner.

“We open these doors and it’s our fans who feed this fire and passion. Every game you find yourself saying this was just as good or better than the one before in the stands. We continue to see and hear that. The key for 2024 is to continue to build on that momentum.”

There is one downside the financial report with Valour FC, the Canadian Premier League team operated by the Winnipeg Football Club, having recorded a loss of $1.25 million. There have also been rumours since last fall of the team being for sale.

“It’s the same thing I said a year ago,” said Miller of Valour’s situation. “We’re going to do everything we can to make this team successful and profitable in our city. You can see already some of the changes we’ve made for this year.

“We’re making changes to find ways to get better results on the field with new hirings in soccer operations and coaching and have dedicated two sales reps specifically to Valour. We must get the attendance back up to an average of over 5,000 and find a way to make this successful going forward.”