Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Stadium money pit deepens?

If new stadium delayed further, current facility must be repaired

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DAVID Asper's real estate com­pany, Creswin Properties, and taxpayers could be asked to pony up money to maintain an aging Canad Inns Stadium if it takes longer than ex­pected to conclude a deal to build a new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Winnipeg Football Club board chair­man Ken Hildahl said $150,000 to $200,000 is spent every year to con­duct routine mechanical, electrical and structural maintenance at Canad Inns Stadium, which the club considers ob­solete.

In essence, every year the Bombers continue to play out of the existing fa­cility, that cash is subtracted from the club's bottom line.

But if Creswin requires several more years to find enough tenants at its pro­posed Polo Park retail development -- a 650,000-square-foot "upscale shopping destination" called The Elms -- the re­pair tab for Canad Inns Stadium will rise into the millions.

"That's a discussion the board will have if we get into extraordinary de­lays," Hildahl said Friday.

"We've given Creswin another year. But if it were to continue a lot longer, we'd want to look at that."

Hildahl said governments would also be approached for cash in such a scen­ario.

Creswin Properties said Thursday it had been given another year to assem­ble the Polo Park retail project that will help finance a $135-million stadium and recreation project at the Univer­sity of Manitoba.

A substantial investment into the building will be required as soon as 2012 and no later than 2015, Hildahl said.

Estimates for extending the sta­dium's lifespan for a decade or two have ranged from $8.9 million, accord­ing to the Tower Report in 2004, to above $40 million, according to Bomb­ers president Lyle Bauer in 2008.

Right now, Creswin's most optimistic projection about its stadium-building project calls for the Bombers to con­tinue playing at Canad Inns Stadium through the 2011 Canadian Football League season.

"We don't expect the deal to drag on extraordinarily. We have just been granted a year's extension and antici­pate the project proceeding within that time frame," a Creswin spokeswoman said in a statement.

Winnipeg retail, finance and real es­tate industry observers are skeptical about Asper's chances to meet that deadline, even as they wish the high­profile lawyer and businessman luck. But politicians have more to lose and are putting on a brave face.

A spokesman for Premier Gary Doer said any discussion about funding re­pairs or upgrades at Canad Inns Sta­dium is premature. The prospect of Creswin failing to meet a September 2010 retail-assembly deadline is mere­ly a hypothetical situation, the spokes­man said.

"If Asper succeeds, everybody should be dancing in the street. If he doesn't succeed, it won't be a pretty picture," Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz added.

City council would be reluctant to contribute cash for stadium repairs up­grades or repairs, said the mayor, not­ing Winnipeg has already turned over all Canad Inns Stadium concession, parking, naming and entertainment­tax revenues to the Winnipeg Football Club and has also charged the team $1 for a 75-year lease on the facility.

"At some point in time, you have to determine what your long-term plan is. If there is an opportunity to build a new stadium, that's your plan and you don't want to flush good money down the toi­let," Katz said.

The Winnipeg Football Club has not considered working with a stadium­building partner other than Creswin since 2008, when it chose Asper's real­estate company over the Canad Inns hotel chain.

Canad Inns wanted to build a stadium on land it owns in St. Boniface. Offi­cials with the chain did not respond to queries about its continued interest in the stadium project.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

BALLPARK ESTIMATES

THE cost of maintaining Canad Inns Stadium and building a replacement, according to the Winnipeg Football Club and its future owner:

$150,000 to $200,000

Money spent by the Winnipeg Football Club on maintenance to Canad Inns Stadium every year, according to board chairman Ken Hildahl.

About $20 million

Cost of mechanical, electrical and structural repairs required to keep the stadium open for another two decades, accord­ing to Winnipeg Blue Bombers president Lyle Bauer in 2007.

Above $40 million

Cost of those same repairs according to Bauer in 2008, fac­toring in construction inflation and plumbing issues he was not aware of the previous year.

"Close to the cost of a new building."

Cost of conducting mechan­­ical, electrical and structural repairs as well as improving fan amenities such as washrooms and concessions, according to Bauer.

The unknown

Cost of safety improvements to Canad Inns Stadium that could result from ongoing inquest into the 2006 death of an intoxicated fan who fell from the stands.

$135 million

Cost of Creswin Properties' proposal to build a new stadium and conduct recreational upgrades at the University of Manitoba, according to David Asper in April 2009.

-- Kives

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