What a great journey: the Winnipeg Goldeyes (independent; American Association) welcomed the 5-millionth fan in team history during today’s matinee.
The Goldeyes were not an original member of the revamped independent Northern League, but entered the league in the second season after beginning life as the Rochester Aces, featuring a much younger Doug Simunic as manager. The Goldeyes began play in 1994 at Canad Inns Stadium, a facility with some history: it was used by the original Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Class C Northern League, and it was also used for part of a season as a Class AAA International League venue when the Buffalo Bisons were forced from War Memorial Stadium. As a baseball venue, Canad Inns Stadium — the former Winnipeg Stadium — was always lacking, with a diamond awkwardly placed on a CFL playing field and a grandstand installed in the northwest corner of the stadium, meaning bases were laid out north-to-south and east-to-west during the last time a ball team took up residency there.
Still, baseball was envisioned as being a big part of the Winnipeg Stadium offerings from the very beginning. It opened in 1953 and was built originally for use for CFL football and minor-league baseball: the affiliated Winnipeg Goldeyes of the original Northern League played there in 1953-1964. The original stadium configuration was slightly different then, with the grandstand located at the southwest corner (it was later torn down for Winnipeg Blue Bombers clubhouses). After the Northern League moved out of the market, Winnipeg officials worked to bring in another affiliated team when the Buffalo Bisons (Class AAA; International League) fled War Memorial Stadium under some nasty circumstances in June 1970 and took up refuge in Winnipeg for the rest of the 1970 season and the entire 1971 season. The Whips were actually a success at the box office but not overall financially; high travel costs (the closest IL team was Toledo) doomed the franchise. The Whips moved to Virginia and became the Peninsula Whips.
Today, Canad Inns Stadium is gone — it was torn down last month — but the Goldeyes are doing quite well at Shaw Park, located on the edge of downtown Winnipeg, near the popular Forks area. Simunic is now manager of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (it’s quite the occasion when Simmy and the RedHawks are in town), and the Goldeyes continue to be a big draw. Today, the team drew 5,523 for a matinee against the Laredo Lemurs, raising the total in team history to 5,001,365.
“It’s truly astounding that we have surpassed 5 million fans,” Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier said. “It shows how supportive our fans are. We can’t thank them enough for helping building our franchise into what it is today.”
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