Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Repair deal nears end zone

Stadium owner, builder haggle over covering $3.5-M cost

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The new stadium has suffered from numerous design and construction issues, the latest of which is snowmelt leaking into luxury suites and the visitors' dressing room.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The new stadium has suffered from numerous design and construction issues, the latest of which is snowmelt leaking into luxury suites and the visitors' dressing room. Photo Store

The owner and builder of Investors Group Field are close to a deal to pay for up to $3.5 million worth of additional work on the city's new football stadium.

Since 2013, stadium contractor Stuart Olson Dominion Construction has been embroiled in a financial dispute with BBB Stadium Inc., the non-profit organization that built the 33,500-seat venue on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

The stadium has suffered from design and construction issues that included replacing handrails that weren't up to code, punching holes in concrete to allow concertgoers access to the playing surface, installing missing insulation and fireproofing crawl spaces.

BBB Stadium has argued some of the additional work is governed by a guaranteed-maximum-price agreement and is the responsibility of the contractor. Stuart Olson Dominion has argued some of the work results from changes to the original design and thus are the responsibility of the stadium's owner.

'Let me just say, one does not have a crystal ball, and you don't know, totally, what may be down the road. There's very limited amounts of money that will be going into this particular facility'

-- Tourism, Culture, Heritage and Sport Minister Ron Lemieux on not ruling out further provincial funding for the stadium

Compounding the dispute is no consensus among the four BBB Stadium stakeholders -- the city, province, university and Winnipeg Football Club -- about who would pay for any work that ultimately winds up being BBB Stadium's responsibility. Mayor Sam Katz, for one, has pledged not to spend an extra penny.

A deal to finally settle the issue is imminent, said BBB chairman Andrew Konowalchuk, the U of M's associate vice-president in charge of administration and a project manager by training.

"A couple of days ago, I would have told you it would be done over the next 24 hours," Konowalchuk said in an interview. The resolution of the dispute, he said, has been delayed by the discovery of snowmelt infiltrating luxury suites and the visitors' dressing room at Investors Group Field.

The financial responsibility for this design flaw -- an apparent inability to seal weather-protected portions of the stadium -- is not part of the negotiations and will clearly fall to either the contractor or the designing architect, Konowalchuk said.

BBB Stadium construction reports said the infiltration of water into the stadium was identified as a problem well before the first CFL game was played at Investors Group Field.

"Leaks on the west side are a great concern, as we have equipment in place in the game-day production suite," reads the stadium-construction update for April 21, 2013.

Konowalchuk said the stadium's funders will not be on the hook to repair either the water damage or fix the seals on the building.

BBB Stadium is, however, expected to cover at least part of the $3.5 million in the construction dispute with Stuart Olson Dominion. That means the final cost of the stadium project is expected to rise at least one more time.

The price tag for the stadium stands at $208.5 million. The Selinger government has fronted the bulk of this cost through $191 million worth of loans and grants. Given the imminent resolution of the dispute with the contractor, Tourism, Culture, Heritage & Sport Minister Ron Lemieux would not rule out further provincial funding for the stadium.

"Let me just say, one does not have a crystal ball, and you don't know, totally, what may be down the road," he said Wednesday, adding further cash infusions would not be significant. "There's very limited amounts of money that will be going into this particular facility."

The resolution of the dispute may also allow Stuart Olson Dominion to pay up to 17 subcontractors who have not been paid since last summer for additional work conducted on the stadium. Stuart Olson Dominion and its subcontractors briefly suspended warranty and other work on the stadium last fall due to non-payment.

Stuart Olson Dominion did not respond to interview requests, while the Winnipeg Football Club refused interview requests.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2014 A3

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Updated on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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