Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rise in stadium cost just leaves me cold

More cash needed for insulation: Really?

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Investors Group Field


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At the risk of telling Winnipeggers something they've heard too many times before, the cost of the city's new football stadium is on the rise.

The province has announced $8.5-million worth of new funding for Investors Group Field, whose price tag now sits somewhere between $208.9 million and $212.4 million. The final tally will depend on the resolution of a dispute over who will pay for additional work conducted at the stadium to deal with problems with the original design.

On Wednesday, Premier Greg Selinger surprised football reporters by announcing $3-million worth of "energy-efficiency upgrades" to winterize Investors Group Field.

This move involves the insulation of plumbing inside the 33,500-seat stadium, as well as other improvements intended to allow the Winnipeg Football Club and the Winnipeg Jets to host an NHL Heritage Classic.

The Selinger government also announced $4-million worth of funding for Grey Cup enhancements and structural upgrades and a $1.5-million loan to the Winnipeg Football Club to cover other structural upgrades.

The province now pegs the cost of the stadium at $208.5 million. But that figure does not include $350,000 to enclose the press box -- money that's supposed to come in the form of a sponsorship -- as well as up to $3.5 million worth of additional work that was supposed to be conducted on the stadium.

What isn't clear right now is how much of that $3.5-million will be covered by stadium contractor Stuart Olson Dominion and how much will be covered by the four BBB Stadium partners: the city, province, the University of Manitoba and Winnipeg Football Club.

It appears the province decided to pay for some of this work itself, because BBB Stadium disclosed the need for winterization six months ago.

Back in September, former BBB Stadium chairman Phil Sheegl said the additional work that needed to be done at the stadium included rebuilding handrails that weren't up to code, installing a fire-suppression system that was missing from a crawl space and insulating the stadium's plumbing.

On Wednesday, the Selinger government characterized this insulation as something that must be done to optimize the revenue possibilities for Investors Group Field.

"We want to maximize the potential for the building," said Ron Lemieux, minister of tourism, culture, heritage, sport and consumer protection. "Insulation is a good thing. We really need to get on that.

"I've been to some Bomber games where it was really cold. It was -15 and -12 degrees."

Of course, the question is how on earth was a stadium designed and built in Winnipeg, Manitoba -- one of the world's coldest cities -- without insulating the plumbing?

"That's a fair question," said Lemieux in an interview. "It's one I've asked and one many other people asked. Why didn't we put insulation (in) in the first place?

"I don't have an answer for that other than to state what everyone else has said: We have the finest new football stadium in Canada."

What has become abundantly clear is the initial design of the stadium was flawed and incomplete and the project oversight was conducted in a manner that did not correct all the errors.

Remember, the all-season winter bubble promised for the stadium was only cancelled after some of the components started to arrive in Winnipeg. The press box was not enclosed. The planned excavation of the stadium bowl has to be altered because the height of the water table was misjudged. The cost of the project rose from $190 million to $200 million and then $204 million before Wednesday, when the tally went up to $208.9 million -- or maybe higher.

Ultimately, this stadium will come in cheaper than the 30,000-seat venue the Saskatchewan Roughriders plan to build in Regina. The Bombers, the province and Stuart Olson Dominion will settle their dispute and move on.

Football fans only care the venue functions properly and the team performs well on the field.

Residents of this city and province are justified in demanding accountability for the fact a stadium capable of handling an Arizona or Florida winter was built in the capital of Manitoba.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2014 A4


Updated on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:20 AM CDT: adds photo

9:04 AM: Removes reference to Creswin Properties

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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