Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue's bus discount likely to pass: Katz

But event-day subsidy will have to wait until next month's city council meeting

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The CEO of the Bombers says fans need to know what the transit situation will be.

JESSICA BURTNICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The CEO of the Bombers says fans need to know what the transit situation will be. Photo Store

The Winnipeg Football Club will have to wait a few more weeks to learn whether city hall will provide it with a subsidy for transit services for events at Investors Group Field.

The deal that has been six months in the making did not make it onto the agenda of Wednesday's council meeting.

But Mayor Sam Katz said it will likely be debated at the May meeting and be approved.

"We all know the value of the Winnipeg Football Club," Katz said. "We all know they are facing a challenge. Everyone wants to make sure they are successful."

The deal wasn't brought to council Wednesday, Katz said, because the city is still waiting for additional information from the team and for written confirmation from the Selinger government it will share the cost of the shortfall.

As first reported by the Free Press, the Bombers and the city have a tentative agreement to substantially reduce the cost for additional transit services for events -- CFL games, concerts and other events -- at the stadium.

Rather than paying full charter rates, as was charged to the team in 2013, the city agreed to reduce the fee by over 40 per cent for this year and next.

That will leave the city with a shortfall of $750,000 this year and an estimated $950,000 for 2015.

Bombers CEO Wade Miller said he was disappointed the football team will have to wait another month but was pleased to hear Katz believes council will approve the deal.

"I hope they bring it to council soon and it gets resolved," Miller said. "We need a resolution to this because we need to communicate to our fans and the people that use Investors Group Field."

Katz said he recognizes the community will be divided over the issue.

"It's between a rock and a hard place," Katz said.

Miller said transit services cost the team $1.226 million in 2013, an amount far more than it expected to pay.

Miller said the team isn't prepared to pay that amount going forward -- either the city lowers the rate or it will find alternative transportation for its fans.

Katz said he doesn't believe the team has a viable transportation alternative.

"I think we defined it as ultimate chaos," Katz said, adding the team vowed to set up park-and-ride venues along major transit routes and let their fans buy a ticket on a regular bus.

"You can imagine what that would create."

Miller said the team is prepared to hire a fleet of 100 school buses to operate on game day, picking up fans from the same park-and-ride locations used last season, but said he preferred to continue using Winnipeg Transit.

"We got 100,000 people to use transit (last season)," Miller said. "We should be celebrating what we accomplished. It worked."

Regular transit service is 50 per cent subsidized by taxpayers, Katz said, adding the charter rate charged to the Bombers last year and to all transit-charter customers covers the full cost of transit service. The subsidy to the team works out to about $4 per rider.

Katz said the team refused to raise ticket prices to cover the transit costs.

He said if the city doesn't provide the team with transit services, there would be traffic chaos on game days and concert days, adding city hall would be blamed for the ensuing traffic snarls.

Katz said Miller has spent the past few months intensively lobbying city councillors and the city's administration, adding he expects there is support on council to approve the deal.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2014 A5

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