Your Guide to Investors Group Field

June 2013

A guide to the new home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Investors Group Field

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GET READY TO PLAY 29 CHEER TEAM GEARED UP FOR NEW STADIUM WITH THE WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS' FIRST KICK-OFF at Investors Group Field just weeks away, Nadia El-Gabalawy is already bracing herself for the historic moment. "I think I'll probably feel somewhere between crying and blowing up," said El-Gabalawy, of her role in the Snap Fitness-sponsored cheer team. The 29-year-old Winnipegger, who is part of the Blue Bomber Cheer Team coaching trio – alongside Carrie Robson and Mickaela McAullife – hopes to channel that excitement back to the packed house of Blue Bomber faithful during the first game and throughout the inaugural home season. Their playbook of crowd-hyping routines is like that of an offensive co-ordinator, combining an aerial assault with incredible footwork on the ground. 'IT'S A PRIVILEGE FOR ME WHEN I PERFORM.' Building off of their 2012 debut as a squad of both women and men, the 36-member team (16 dancers and 20 co-ed stunters) is looking forward to entertaining a crowd now familiar with the new team format. El-Gabalawy recalls how during the first game or two of last season the team, the men in particular, endured some razzing from fans not yet accustomed to this tweaking of the cheer team formula which, for about a half-century, had been strictly women. "People were kind of taunting them," said El-Gabalawy. Unfazed, the team went out and did their best and the rest took care of itself. "Everybody had such a change of attitude because it was so obvious what these guys were doing out there was really, really athletic," she said. It was a turning point for the squad when fans started bringing score cards and rated their routines out of 10. "They were so proud of themselves, and so happy to be connecting with the fans like that," said El-Gabalawy. Danton Duff, a 19-year-old Transcona boy and former football player, is one of the male bases on the stunt side of the team. He discovered co-ed cheering during first-year orientation at the University of Manitoba, where he met a group of cheerleaders doing stunts and decided to give it a try. "I got hooked right away," recalled Duff. The draw for him initially was the pure physical challenge of being a base, which he says, "requires every part of the body." All the men on the team are bases, balancing the female flyers in formation and hurtling them into the air for their acrobatic maneuvers. But it's the atmosphere of game day and the Blue Bomber crowd that Duff says he most enjoys now. The U of M graduate said he plans to stick around with the team as long as he can. With members ranging in age from 18 to 37, he's a long way from past his prime. Over the years, the female dancers on the cheer team have also helped change perceptions about their role, said veteran dancer Katie Lipinski, who was a competitive dancer prior to joining the group. "I know many dancers who didn't necessarily understand what our team has evolved to be," said Lipinski. "They associated cheering with shaking pom-poms and smiling. It's neat to show these dancers what we actually do and continue to influence dancers in that way." In the air or on the ground, the squad's common goal is to enhance the fan experience, and for that, no sacrifice is too great. This is a volunteer gig and one that requires a commitment of 30 to 40 hours of community appearances on top of game-day performances that sometimes means three hours in the blazing heat of a Winnipeg summer, rattling off anywhere from 80 to 100 routines in a game. All of this is in addition to the hours spent in the gym nailing moves and prepping their bodies for the rigours of the season. Their motivation? They are Bomber believers to the core, just like the crowds they've spent generations firing up. "I come from a long line of Bomber fans dating back to my great-grandmother," said Lipinski. "So it's a privilege for me to be associated with the Bombers and to be at every game. I feel honoured when I get to perform."

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