Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Asper unveils new stadium vision

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David Asper has unveiled his new stadium vision -- which comes complete with a massive waterfront development for South Point Douglas as well as a water park.

SLIDESHOW: Artist's conceptions of Asper's stadium plan
MAP: Google map showing proposed location for stadium
VIDEO: What do Bomber fans think of the plan?

Asper said the plan is only a conception of what the south Point Douglas area could look like over the next decade.

“This is just a drawing,” he said of the top-down view of new stadium, waterpark and bridge walkway from Whittier Park on the other side of the Red River.

The next step is talking to residents and business owners in the area about what they want – nothing is going to be imposed.

Asper said the proposed new stadium at the Polo Park site is also still on the table and that no final decision has been made on either site.

However, others close to the negotiations say a deal for the Point Douglas site is extremely close as it’s tied into the development of the waterfront and rejuvenates an area long overlooked.

Asper, however, urged caution.

Mayor Sam Katz reiterated his support for the South Point Douglas development but said more work must be done before the city signs a memorandum of understanding.

On Friday morning, he briefed city councillors about the idea. Most were supportive but unclear who would pay the unknown tab for infrastructure improvements that could include the relocation and elevation of Higgins Avenue and the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the Red River.

Premier Gary Doer said the province was on board with the Point Douglas option because it would see Asper’s development company shoulder more of the cost of building the stadium and redevelop part of the area.

In turn, the province would see revenue in return for its contribution over a long period of time.

The Point Douglas site would give a large part of the riverfront back to its citizens, essentially extending the riverwalk from behind the legislature through the Fork and north almost to the CP rail line and the current Louise Bridge.

“This is not just for football fans,” Doer said. “It means more public access to the river.”

The release today of the blueprints comes after a week of wild speculation about the changing gameplan for the proposed new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and comes as Mayor Sam Katz was holding a special briefing for councillors on the development.

"What we are proposing is a private public partnership and a nearly $400 million development to extend Waterfront Drive right through to the doorstep of an enhanced stadium and the city’s largest waterfront re-development in over 30 years," Asper said in a release.

"Transformation of the 50-acre waterfront site in historic Point Douglas and retail re-development at Polo Park would represent an unprecedented private sector commitment with at least 75 per cent of all funding coming from Creswin.

"This addresses a concern of many and would mean a much lighter load for taxpayers with $25 million from the province and $15 million from the feds."

Creswin is an Asper company with a variety of business interests.

Asper also addresses the controversy over the apparent move away from the Polo Park site which had long been the expected destination for the new stadium.

"We have been working hard to bring our original proposal at the Polo Park location to fruition. In fact, you likely remember our ‘Best Seats’ media event of June 6 during which I said we were close to concluding agreements among us which would allow us to speak with a united voice in our attempts to secure funding from the federal government," the Canwest executive said.

"Notwithstanding our providing the information to you today about Point Douglas, we still consider the (Polo Park) location a viable option and are pursuing it.

"Just two weeks ago, things began to change. It started with a call from the Mayor who was very concerned that we were likely to come up significantly short on the funding we requested for Polo Park. If this happened, we both knew we’d have to start cutting corners -– the thing fans were adamant we not do. So, we discussed other possibilities and the Point Douglas concept was tabled."

Highlights of the plan include:

- An extension of Waterfont Drive. Higgins will be relocated north so that it runs immediately parallel to the current rail line.

- a new 30,000 to 40,000 seat stadium with a $30 million budget increase to $150 million.

- a $70 million resort featuring an indoor/outdoor waterpark with retractable walls, a hotel and related amenities.

- construction of a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge across to Whittier Park, and the waterfront.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2008 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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