Looking down on it from a plane, the Petitcodiac River looks like a perfectly poured stretch of chocolate milk, making its way through south-eastern New Brunswick like a major artery of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Anthony LeBlanc, whose father grew up in Moncton, mentions that the river is much lower these days than it once was. Ships were built on it from the 1840s to the 1860s and sailed on the river well into the 20th century. Schooners used to sail here, LeBlanc said.
All of these years later, the Schooners have returned to Moncton, at least for this weekend. LeBlanc and his partners in Schooners Sports Entertainment are hosting Sunday’s Touchdown Atlantic game at the Stade Croix-Bleue Medavie Stadium, at the Universite de Moncton.
As fun as LeBlanc expects this weekend to be, he’s said that it won’t directly impact his group’s greater goal of bringing a CFL team to Halifax and Canada’s Atlantic region.
As the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes arrive in Moncton on Saturday for their walkthrough practices, LeBlanc and the Schooners group kind of feel the same way here. While they wade through the process of trying to get the government on board with stadium construction, they can look at this weekend’s game as an opportunity to learn more about football in this part of the country.
“One (thing we’ve learned) is specific to how people here consume their marketing,” LeBlanc said.
“We put a very strong emphasis on digital, which I think is where most sports franchises are going. And what we’ve heard is that traditional forms of media, whether it’s via newspapers or radio or billboards are still very, very prevalent here in Atlantic Canada and we didn’t put a whole lot of emphasis on that. So that’s been a good learning point for us.
“When we start doing more marketing in the future, be it for another Touchdown Atlantic or hopefully for the Schooners, we need to ensure that we focus on ways that people consume information here and it’s a little bit different than other parts of the country.”
The other lesson offered in the planning for this game came through ticketing options.
“We’ve got to make sure that we have a have an offering that is affordable for families and for young people. And out of the gate (with this game) we didn’t have that. So when we got that feedback, we were able to be nimble and correct it,” LeBlanc said.
EPISODE OVERVIEW: Schooners Sports and Entertainment co-founder Anthony LeBlanc jumps on the pod to talk about this weekend’s Touchdown Atlantic in Moncton. Listen to the interview below (at the 52:00 mark).
“The big one that will have to work on thinking down the road as a full-time franchise, afternoon start times are really important here on the weekend. This is a regional team (and) if we’re going to do night game we have to try to do them on Fridays, or Saturdays as opposed to Sundays.
“That was the first thing we heard. We had literally hundreds of people calling us saying, ‘We want to go to the game but I can’t take Monday off.’
“Those three things are the real clear ones that we’ve learned throughout the process. But there are lots of little things along the way.”
While tickets weren’t swallowed up with the announcement of the game, LeBlanc looked around the stadium on Friday afternoon and anticipated a great event. He’s very optimistic about the turnout and that for a day at least, maritimers will be able to enjoy having the CFL readily available to them. This will be the fourth time that Moncton has hosted a CFL game, but the first time since 2013.
“Yes, it has taken a lot longer than we expected for tickets to move. But this week in particular…we’re trending toward a sellout,” he said.
“This is gonna be a nice, packed building. This will be a raving success. We’ll have a full building, we’ll have great weather, we’ve got great sponsor activation, as you can see on the field. This will be a success.”