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!

No real news on Vikings, Raiders, L.A. stadiums; Blue Bombers, maybe a little

At the end of a busy week, you don’t mind if I jam together items about four different football teams in two different leagues into one post, do you? Surely you don’t, so let’s get on with it:

  • Now Tim Leiweke of AEG says he’s not going to wait until after the lockout to start on an L.A. stadium, promising: “I spend most of every waking hour on the NFL. I’m going to tell you this; we’re going to give this our best shot in the next two to three months.” Apparently this solely refers to an “agreement with the city and the NFL,” but not actual stadium designs, or funding plans. Which leaves… the shape of the negotiating table?
  • Amy Trask, who’s in charge of getting a new stadium for the Oakland Raiders, says, “There will be a new stadium for the Raiders, it’s on the horizon and it’s very exciting.” (What else is she going to say?) She also says she’s “tenacious,” “tough,” “my hope is that I’m fair,” and “it’s not my job to be lovable.” She left out “vague,” but that’s kind of in the job description.
  • The price of the new Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium has now risen from $160 million to $190 million. The team would now be responsible for putting in $70 million of the cost, which would cut into the new revenues that were supposed to be the point of building this thing, but them’s the breaks. (It’s also notable that now that the team will continue to be owned by a community non-profit instead of a for-profit developer, it’s considered okay to ask for a bigger team contribution.) A final plan is expected next week.
  • The Washington Post considers the likelihood of the Vikings moving out of Minnesota, and concludes: We dunno.

And there we go. Now, if FoS readers can help out by devoting the comments section to discussion of World Cup soccer as usual, we’ll have a perfect hash of an item. Have a great weekend!

Canadian sports subsidies less likely after Harper kills Edmonton Expo

The prospect of Canadian federal subsidies for stadium and arena projects got murkier again this week. Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper still officially remains mum on the possibility, professional tea leaf readers agreed that Harper’s decision to reject federal funding of Edmonton’s plans for a 2017 Expo sends a signal that he won’t, as previously tea-leaf-read, come up with some kind of subsidy plan to placate Quebec hockey advocates, and then more money to placate those in other Canadian cities who’d be jealous if Quebec got money and they didn’t.

As a result, all the Canadian sports teams with their hands out are scrambling to come up with new funding strategies, or at least new attempts at spin:

  • Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume immediately declared that he’s “always said I have a plan B” and “will implement that plan if necessary.” He didn’t say what the plan B was, though, and said he still hoped for federal funding for a new hockey arena.
  • Saskatchewan provincial cabinet minister Ken Cheveldayoff insisted that “I don’t think there’s any parallels that can be drawn” between the Edmonton Expo plans and his province’s plans for a new Roughriders stadium in Regina, and that he still hopes for about $100 million in federal funding. Saskatchewan is asking for money from the federal P3 Canada Fund, which subsidies public-private partnerships — but which also specifically excludes “facilities used primarily by professional athletes.” To get around this, the province is arguing that it would be building a $431 million domed stadium primarily as a “community recreation and entertainment facility,” and that the Roughriders playing there wouldn’t be its primary use.

Now word yet that I can find on how the Harper move is likely to affect the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Blue Bombers funding battles, but I’m sure that’s coming soon.

Winnipeg “Plan B”: Asper out, new stadium still in

So it took more than the promised four or five days, but it looks like the solution to developer David Asper’s $45-million-over-budget stadium plan for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is to keep the stadium plan, but ditch Asper. The Winnipeg Free Press reports today that “officials are now looking at a ‘Plan B’ that would see the redevelopment of the Canad Inns Stadium site by investors other than Asper.”

Details are still extremely sketchy, but the rest of the deal sounds like it remains very similar to the original plan: The current stadium site would be turned over to redevelopment, and property taxes kicked back to pay for construction of the new stadium. (Yes, that’s a TIF. And no, nobody’s saying where the tax money would come from to pay for services to the new development, which is what property taxes are usually used for.) The only difference is that Asper was originally going to try to pay off the stadium debt himself in exchange for gaining control of the team; Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger now says that the Blue Bombers will remain community-owned.

As for how much this will all cost, no details on that yet, either. And there’s still always the possibility that the federal government will come up with its own national sports-facility-funding plan, to placate Quebec hockey arena boosters. Asper may be gone, but the controversies are only just beginning.

Winnipeg stadium over budget, out of cash

The $115 million plan for a new Winnipeg Blue Bombers football stadium — already saddled with a controversial public “loan” to developer David Asper that could turn out to be more of a grant — has new problems. Namely, that that $115 million price tag has turned into $160 million, and nobody has a clue where the extra money will come from:

Sources say the price is more than $160 million and the stakeholders are now huddling to determine what comes next. The project will require extra money or the design could be altered to make the stadium fit the $115-million budget used to put together the existing funding package. There is concern the project is in danger of being scrapped altogether.

Asper agreed to pay for all cost overruns, but now says overruns should be calculated only after the “final price” is determined. (This is reminiscent of the time the Seattle Mariners owners insisted that they didn’t have to pay for cost overruns on Safeco Field because they were not overruns, but rather “unanticipated capital expenditures”; the team lost in court.) If the final cost estimate — which, mind you, is being made by Asper’s own development firm, Creswin Properties — comes in at more than $115 million, Asper tells the Winnipeg Free Press, “choices will have to be made.”

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz says he and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger will make a decision on how to proceed in the next four or five days. This could get very ugly very fast.

Winnipeg stadium deal: Return of the “groan”?

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.”