Manitoba announced a new deal for a stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers CFL franchise on Wednesday, which stands out from the old one announced last year in that it’s much, much more confusing. Under the old plan, the province was going to kick in $15 million toward a $115 million stadium; under the new one, it will add a $90 million loan to be paid back by developer David Asper, who will be on the hook for only $10 million in up-front costs.
Now, here’s where it gets complicated: The Blue Bombers are owned by the province, and Asper will get control of the team (and the stadium) if he repays the loan in full. If he can’t repay it, though — which depends on his success in tearing down the team’s old stadium and building an upscale mall in its place — then the province keeps the team, and diverts the mall’s property taxes out of the general fund to pay off the stadium costs (yes, still another TIF).
As some Manitoba officials point out, this could be a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situation for Asper, who is effectively taking no risk: Either he ends up with a successful mall and a free football franchise, or a less successful mall, no team, and next to no stadium debt. The Globe and Mail reports:
“The province is crossing its fingers and hoping it will be repaid,” said Conservative Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen. “There’s no obligation to repay, which means it’s not a loan; it’s a $90-million grant.”
Or as Pennsylvania state representative Thomas Petrone famously said of one of the original TIF deals, for new stadiums for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh’s NFL and MLB teams: “It’s not a grant. It’s not a loan. It’s a groan.”