Winnipeg approves $190m Blue Bombers stadium

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are getting their new stadium after all, after the Winnipeg city council voted this afternoon to approve the revised deal put forward last week. As the CBC reports, in a story whose lede is alarmingly blunt for those weaned on U.S-style news coverage:

Winnipeg city councillors have voted to spend $12.5 million and forfeit years of property-tax revenue from a prime piece of retail land to build a $190 million football stadium on the University of Manitoba campus. …

The government of Manitoba is putting up the bulk of the capital for the stadium, $85 million of which will be in the form of a loan to the Winnipeg Football Club, which is the managing entity of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The club will have 44 years to repay the money.

When the current stadium site at Polo Park is ultimately redeveloped, money that is collected by the city in property taxes — about $75 million — will be repaid to the province.

In other words, the public is taking on a fair bit of risk, not to mention that those property taxes won’t be available to pay for services to whatever ends up getting built on the current stadium site. (Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett notes that the Bombers will have to generate $4 million a year in new revenues to pay their share of the costs, which is no slam dunk in the CFL. And yes, I know that they don’t have slam dunks in the CFL.) Still, it’s arguably better than the original plan in which the province would either end up losing money or losing ownership of its team. So, one point for Manitoba!

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4 comments on “Winnipeg approves $190m Blue Bombers stadium

  1. $4 million in new revenue in the CFL? Wow. Slam dunk? I am not sure that’s achievable. How much does the Grey Cup turn in operating profit for the host city? $2M? $3M?

    Didn’t this franchise have a telethon in the early 1990s or mid 1990s or was that Saskatchewan?

  2. It was Saskatchewan, Bevo. The Rider-thon.

    Plenty of raised eyebrows about the claim that a new facility can generate $4m in additional revenues… I’m sure it will improve the Bombers’ bottom line, but I struggle to understand how it could possibly boost net earnings by more than $2m max.

    Many people in Wpg are of the opinion that the city and/or province will cover a good part of the debt assigned to the Bombers as well (sooner or later)… as they have done in the past.

  3. We can’t use yesterdays or even todays measuring sticks to determine how the WFC generate the income needed to make this work. This is a whole new ball game, and I am sure that all parties have taken a hard look at what is and is not possible. Yes there is a risk, I acknowledge that. But there are risks in not acting as well, which cannot be expounded in this short space. There is much more at stake then a stadium, and more then the bombers will benefit from this new stadium and other amenities being built.

  4. In general, I agree Ron. The only area of concern is ‘can the Bombers pay the debt they are taking on?’

    It is a relatively modest amount in the grander scheme of things, so if the city or province has to cover part of it, it won’t be crippling. Taxpayers would just like to know what the deal is, not what it ‘might’ be.

    With the change in ownership of the project (and thus, no change to WFC ownership), the facility will remain publicly owned as far as I can tell. While this doesn’t change the ‘cost’, it at least means that tax dollars aren’t disappearing into millionaire/billionaire pockets.

    I actually like this deal far better than the Asper one. I’d just like to hear the ‘worst case’ from the politicos, not how little it ‘might’ cost taxpayers, that’s all.

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