Sunday, May 27, 2018

Summer of Sports

Wish this:

And this:

And this were all going on this week.

So amazing when baseball, football and hockey are on all the same time in Winnipeg. Alas, we will have to wait till fall to to get them all back together again.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Winnipeg Radio Ratings Spring 2018

Spring 2018 radio ratings

(previous rating period in brackets)
  1. CBC Radio One — 14.2 (14.2)
  2. 680 CJOB — 10.9 (11.2)
  3. QX 104 — 10.3 (8.1)
  4. 92.1 CITI — 5.9 (6.5)
  5. 99.9 BOB FM — 5.7 (6.3)
  6. 103.1 Virgin Radio — 5.5 (7.3)
  7. TSN Radio 1290 — 5.4 (3.3)
  8. 94.3 The Drive — 5.2 (6.6)
  9. KiSS 102.3 — 4.3 (4.5)
  10. Energy 106 — 4.0 (4.8)
  11. Power 97 —  3.5 (4.4)
  12. Peggy @ 99.1 — 3.2 (2.1)
  13. CBC Radio 2 — 3.1 (4.1)
  14. Hot 100.5 — 1.6 (2.2)
  15. Now Country 104.7 — 0.4 (0.4)
  16. Radio-Canada Espace Musique — 0.1 (0.1)
CBC Radio One continues to dominate Winnipeg's radio market according to the Spring radio ratings book. For the last number of years CBC has held this commanding position ever since it surpassed CJOB. The two primarily talk based stations rank 1 and 2 with 680 CJOB slipping from their last ratings period.

The station that took a big jump was TSN Radio 1290 and the reason for that is probably the long run of the Winnipeg Jets into the play-offs. It was enough to elevate the station to the heady territory of 7th place on the list.

The highest rated FM music station is QX 104. Country music remains strong with women and has gained ground against the classic and rock stations in the city. They have taken number 3 on the dial while 92.1 CITI and 99.9 Bob FM have 4th and 5th. New popular music station 103.1 Virgin too had a big drop.

Only two music FM radio stations had gains in this period, That was QX 104 and Peggy @ 99.1 which features adult contemporary such as 1980s pop to more recent releases. A few other stations chase that dynamic and it is hard to appear different to competitors.

It is difficult to know if the latest book will trigger firings and format changes. The importance of having the right on air talent and content seems to escape the tall foreheads elsewhere who react to these things. A little luck helps too. TSN floated upward on Jets coverage. 

People still love their talk and music and don't mind curated stations but it better be delivered through apps, Google Home, Alexa and on satellite. They want to visit the websites, enter contests and see their DJS at events or online.

Today's programmers need to get their signal on every device there is and not be surprised when people are listening and responding from all over the world. And somehow that reach has to be measured and sold to advertisers.

I have said often enough here that if CJOB wants to take back number 1, they have to offer a FM signal as well as a AM signal. They locked up Winnipeg Blue Bomber football which helped them last year. If they are not looking at locking down the new soccer broadcasts, they would be fools not to.

As far as music stations go: on air talent that isn't paid pennies and wasted on canned programming would go a long way. Good talent can educate and introduce more music if a format starts to go stale. Instead of a wholesale format change it could be that songs not in rotation but by loved artists are played. Or songs covering a certain theme or season. It is the lack of originality and flexibility that is sometimes staggering.

In any event, it will probably be fall before we see a shake-up once again in Winnipeg and it will probably be firing people and a format chance by someone named Harold in Toronto who has launched 20 other stations that year. That probably isn't going to work. Assume that people will go anywhere to listen to music they like and if you want to keep them, it will have to be at a personal level on the devices they like.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Winnipeg Goldeyes 2018 Season Three-peat?

They did it once and then did it again. As other Winnipeg sports teams struggle to get to the play-offs and win, the Winnipeg Goldeyes have done it twice in a row and look to make it three in 2018.

This year's Goldeyes home opener is this Friday at Shaw Park and sees the return of several players who helped propel the team to victory last year. As in past years, the Goldeyes are down in Texas getting their season started. They just swept their last series which is a strong indication that the team is looking strong as ever.

This year marks 25 years for the return of the Winnipeg Goldeyes and things look pretty good when reflected back over the years. In 1994, the Goldeyes joined the one year old Northern League as a transfer team and played in Winnipeg Stadium. It was less than ideal but the team itself was the real deal. In the first year, the team took the title.

The Pan-Am Games was a turning point in 1999. As the city was still reeling from from loss of the Winnipeg Jets, the chance to build a baseball field downtown reached fruition. It was not without controversy and lots of public money spent. Through three phases in 1999, 2000 and 2003, the stadium was transformed into one of the most beautiful baseball parks in North America. In 2010, the Winnipeg Goldeyes switched leagues to join the American Association and that is where they are today.

The American Association is looking the healthiest in a lot of years. A few of the teams like the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and St. Paul Saints are strong markets with equally strong teams. Generally, it has been the southern division that has struggled with failing teams, shared teams, low attendance and poor competitiveness. Things may have stabilized for the time. Baseball seems to be on the upswing in many markets with new stadiums and ownership groups.

This year the Chicago Dogs join the league playing out of Impact Field that was just constructed this year in Rosemont, Illinois right by O'Hare International Airport. Next year Milwaukee gets a new stadium and team to join the league in 2019. Things look very good moving forward.

The continuity of the team in both front office and the field is the recipe to success. Rick Forney is back in his 13th year managing the team. Returning players are fan favourites like Reggie Abercrombie, Josh Mazzola and solid pitching group with returning Edwin Karl and Charlie Rosario among others.

At the independent league level, it is professional ball but players are making something like $800 a month and have room and board all over the city. There is no big TV contract. The radio broadcast with Steve Schuster is at an elite level on CJNU. This gets as close to on the ground sports and fans involvement as you can find. The players are heroes but earn less in a year than a Winnipeg Jets player makes in game.

As with any independent league, what happens on the field is enhanced with what happens off the field. Young and attentive cheer squads, ballpark food and beyond and simply sitting outside downtown watching a train chug along behind the grandstand so that even players watch in bemusement. And all of this that an entire family can see without breaking the bank.

When pointing out what things have happened in the last 20 years that have turned Winnipeg around, the Goldeyes and their ability to attract thousands of people downtown consistently has to me mentioned. Their success and ours have been mutual and they are back this year to entertain once again and to hopefully, take home the prize for a third year in a row.

Winnipeg Goldeyes home opener is this Friday, Many 25.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Control Escape Room Coming to Charleswood

The sign is up, the website says opening in May 2018, Control Escape Rooms is set to occupy the former Kids Etc Youth Movement dance studio at 3525 Roblin across from Laxdal in old Charleswood. Lest anyone think Kids Etc closed, a story is coming about their relocation into a building built for them.

There has been a lot change in old Charleswood after a number of years of stability in the business make-up of street. Kids Etc moved and Pizza Pizza closed in the same mall. The Prep Montessori School recently in the space where two former diet centres were once located.

In a shocker to many people the last bank of the street is shutting down and re-locating all its business to Portage Avenue. CIBC has been a fixture of the street forever. Now old Charleswood has no bank branch at in the next weeks.

The Charleswood Medical Centre is back up and running under new operators and a re-fresh. Sirius Benefits which was located in the old Matheo's restaurant was bought by People Corp and has re-located to Kenaston in their massive new facility. The building remains up for lease.

In another surprise the Subway restaurant shut down after many, many years. It had been the old survivor in renovations that saw Robin's and KFC closed in favour of Starbucks and now Capital restaurant.

However, back to Control Escape. Their webpage says opening soon and will feature 10 escape rooms. It will be the first escape room for the Charleswood area although Winnipeg may have the largest amount of the businesses anywhere on the planet. They truly have proliferated here and remain popular.

In a world where people increasingly were becoming shuts-ins to Netflix, video games and the like, the escape rooms are the antithesis to being alone. They require people to get together to enjoy an event in an allotted time with a reward at the end for figuring it out.

Expect to see Control Escape to open in Charleswood soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Giant Tiger Polo Park Area to Open in August

The former Sears Home store has been transformed over the last year. First Staples re-located to the shopping to the building at 1450 Ellice Avenue and now Giant Tiger has announced that they will be opening August 4 of this year. In July of 2017, construction began and Staples and Spirit Halloween shared the space side by side. The seasonal store was only a temporary resident though and work has been done to accommodate Giant Tiger which has been looking for a spot near Polo Park for some time.

Many surrounding properties near Polo Park have changed hands and there is considerable investment to keep the area the premiere retail area in the city. Jollibee's restaurant chose the 1450 Ellice site for its first location in Canada.

Giant Tiger has a master franchise agreement in the west with the North West Company and has been rapidly expanding. It took over the old Price Chopper site off Pembina Highway.

The last two years has also seen some large scale roadwork being done on St. James Street and surrounding streets although much work is still needed.

The question of the remaining Sears properties in Winnipeg remains undecided.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Winnipeg Jets Street Party

As some of you know, I've been out week after week setting up Winnipeg Jets Street parties for the NHL play-offs. Specifically, it has been the kids's section digital video wall in the Millennium Library park alongside Donald Street. There are five video walls altogether brought in from all over to cover five blocks.

There are many people working full days to put this together representing many companies working with Winnipeg Jets, Economic Development Winnipeg and the city to organize large scale street parties from the first play-off home game to the last. The decision to set up the events as they have been done is a reflection of the past and the present. Winnipeg crowds have been enthusiastic and well mannered but organizers did not want a repeat of what happened in Vancouver - twice.

To that end, security is ever present, fencing is all around, washrooms everywhere and entertainment provided. More video screens than Vancouver had and alcohol and alcohol free zones carefully separated. The street party has expanded each time but the fear of the 70,000 to 100,000 people that Vancouver had on the streets weighs heavy. And not just because of riots that happened in 1994 and 2011. Now, we have to worry about large crowds and those who might wish to hard.

Large dump trucks block the ends of streets. Police are present all over for safety. Without a doubt the concern is that if the party spills out past street party zone, the risk goes up. The police have been very good about people wanting to go Portage and Main. It doesn't happen every game but it has happened a few important occasions. We can possibly expect more and we can expect to see numbers of people go up.

These big questions are dealt with by the organizers. The CBC and Free Press have well covered the sheer logistics of putting all of this together. It is hard work and a lot of fun. My company had an entire semi-trailer unload last game with two dozen people. My actual unit in the kid's zone requires hours of work by 4 or 5 people to put up.

When we first started they were clearing ice out of the park and we were bundled in winter clothes. It was cold! I have been sunburned twice the last few times. I can't tell you how proud I am off the team and the response we get setting all this up. I love the Winnipeg Jets as many of you do and share the elation. The pride extends through the whole city and it is literally shocking how many windows, business signs, flags and people wearing Jets clothing and hats all over the city you see. Not just downtown...everywhere.
We're all still figuring things out with how to be cheerful, safe and how to celebrate for weeks on end. I'm sure we'll have to keep evolving through this amazing journey. When the arena was first planned for the downtown, there was an idea of what it could become. Like the Jets it has been a draft and develop sort of thing. Each piece fitting together to get to where we are now.

We have all played a part in this party for certain. None of it could have happened without our support, our joy and our participation. So once again I'll be parked on a closed Donald Street with my company be out there Monday morning after rush hour building a video wall and feeling happy to kid's and their families in the stroller section watching their heroes play Las Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of us will enjoy how good we all look in our coming out party. Be gracious, be fun, be safe and where sunscreen as we go deep into May playing for the Stanley Cup.

Go Jets go!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

It is hard to believe that the seeds for Avengers: Infinity War was laid in a decision to create a new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that utilized superheroes whose rights or distribution had not been picked up by other studios. Marvel Studios would keep things in-house and would reap the benefits financially compared to their licencing agreements that were less lucrative. More importantly, they would have creative control across multiple platforms on their work.

In 2008 the film portion of MCU released Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. which went on to monster success thereby rejuvenating Marvel and the actor as well. Over the next ten years 18 more films would be released covering many of the other comic superheroes from Thor to Black Panther. All of them would be within the same universe and slowly linked through a series of Easter Eggs that would reveal plot points that would gather all the characters into the Avengers along with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Success was not guaranteed. Fortunately, no box office bombs crippled the project as it went along although some re-casting of characters took place such as Hulk and James Rhodes of the Iron Man movies. Most of the disagreements being over pay and creative control.

Marvel chose quite the talent pool of writers, directors and cast. However, they had seen other properties such Fantastic Four never live up to expectations when done by other studios. As a result, the studio had certain parameters as well as requirements for each of their films. Incredibly, the nearly two films a year pace satisfied nearly everyone and the hallmark of the end credits was to wait for the snippet or sometimes two snippets of a cliffhanger for what was to come next.

And so it comes down to Infinity War where the build up to one of the great villains Thanos (John Brolin) has been gathering. Directors Anthony and Joseph Russo with a good Marvel background of Captain America movies as well as TV comedies were well chosen for the ability to blend action and drama with an ever present humour. And this is a good thing because from the very beginning the audience's favourite characters are fodder for the villain's ambitions. The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely deftly gives the heroes screen time that plays to their previous strengths from storylines over the past ten years. The writers themselves know those characters well since they scripted four Marvel movies and polished a fifth not to mention created a spin-off TV series Agent Carter.

The talent pool in writing and directing is what attracts the huge amount of acting talent. Over twenty actors compete for screen time with many never working together before in Marvel's universe. Suffice to say, it is interesting to see Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) make for a good match in powers, action and humour.

It is hard to review without giving away the entire story but suffice to say that the villain Thanos has been gathering Infinity Stones as part of his plot to cull the universe of beings for its own good. He doesn't see himself as a bad guy. His view is that with a random fifty per cent of people gone, the universe will be stronger with more resources to use. Without his intervention, he believes universal collapse like on his own planet of Titan is inevitable.

With the McGuffin being the Mind, Soul, Time, Space, Reality and Power stones, heroes and villains alike are searching and battling in multiple locations. As far as the main filming location was, Georgia was the home of the bulk of the work with a few side trips to New York. It is a testament to the state that they can now do a $300 million movie with the best of the world studios.

The Guardians of the Galaxy cross over into Avengers as Thanos has been a thorn in their side for some time. Gamora played by Zoe Saldana has a particularly strong role to play as she is step daughter to Thanos. In many ways, this movie is an origin story for Gamora and Thanos.

The critics, the fanboys/girls will all have something to love about this movie. A few quibbles: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is good for the most part but the recklessness of his character at one point had me throwing my arms up in the air. In addition, Vision (Paul Bethany) has a stone in the middle of his forehead and yet we see hum use few of his powers used to defend himself.

Despite some confounding moments, the movie is a rip-roaring yarn. Some of the pay-off might come in the next movie since so many people are not sure how to take the ending. A few tears were shed to be sure. But there was a lot of action and laughs along the way.