If you're a hockey fan, concert-goer or other MTS Centre visitor who likes to go outside for a break during events, you might soon find that break a bit longer than expected.
The downtown Winnipeg arena will no longer allow patrons who leave the building back inside for the rest of the event, under a new policy taking effect Sept. 1.
True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the MTS Centre and the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose hockey franchises, says the new "no re-entry" policy aims to improve security by getting rid of "frequent re-entries" and reducing what it calls "heavy pedestrian flow" outside the building during games and events.
The change will bring Winnipeg in line with a National Hockey League standard that has already been adopted by other teams in the league, including five of the NHL's seven Canadian teams, Donnelly said.
"We do recognize that this is a change in policy that does represent an inconvenience for some of our patrons. For that, we are empathetic, but it really us addressing a recommendation that comes to us from the NHL," Kevin Donnelly, True North's senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
"It's not a mandate from the NHL, but a recommendation that 22 other facilities in our league have already acted on. We actually think we're slow to the party."
Staff will consider exceptions
Donnelly added that banning re-entry will improve climate control inside the building, as patrons who currently leave and return bring in cold air during the winter and hot, humid air in the summer.
"We get comments from the patrons about how cold it is in our concourse with people exiting and whatnot throughout the game, so we will be able to control air temperature in the concourse and in the bowl with greater stability now, and that's a benefit for everybody," he said.
Security staff will consider exceptions to the rule, including emergencies and reasons related to child care and medical conditions, on a case-by-case basis.
"It's not meant to prohibit somebody who has a need to go, whether it's medicine or baby issues or a legitimate need to go and retrieve something and come back and take in the rest of the entertainment that they paid for," Donnelly said.
"So for those people, we say visit Customer Service. We'll issue some sort of accreditation that will allow you to leave and re-enter with your ticket and that pass."
Some fans pan change
But the change means starting in September, smokers will have to forgo their "fresh air" breaks if they want to stay for the game or concert.
"It's not unlike, you know, getting on a plane to Calgary or Toronto; you have to go without a cigarette for a three- or four-hour period," Donnelly said.
He added that contrary to what some may suggest, the new rule was not introduced to stop fans from hitting up bars and restaurants outside the MTS Centre in the middle of games and concerts.
"That really wasn't a consideration, but if that was their pattern, that's their habit, then they'll have to change that habit, too," he said. "But that wasn't a factor in us adopting the NHL's recommendation."
The new policy, which comes as the arena's concourse undergoes a $12-million facelift, will affect about 10 per cent of the audience, or about 1,500 patrons who attend Jets home games, officials said.
Some potential event-goers are already booing the new policy.
"That's not fair to the smokers, for sure. That's not going to fly," said Shawn Mann. He smokes occasionally and said he thinks the MTS Centre will face backlash from others who do, too.
"A petition will be started soon probably for that, for sure. I see it happening," he said. "They might lose business because of that, for sure."
"I think that's a bad idea," said Lainie Fischer. She said she goes to the MTS Centre several times a year and often slips out for a drink during the break.
"That would definitely make me hesitant to buy tickets, especially depending how long the show is."
Brad Mills called it "communism."
"Who are they to say that I don't have the right to leave their establishment and come back in?" he said. "I bought the ticket. I can come and go as I please. That's how I feel."
A public awareness campaign will be rolled out this spring and summer to educate patrons about the incoming policy. Donnelly said effective immediately, re-entry is allowed only through the main doors.
True North says it's had a no re-entry policy in place at the Burton Cummings Theatre for the past 18 months.