City hall is planning to offer a steep discount to the Winnipeg Football Club for the fees charged for its charter bus service for events at the IGF stadium.
The discounted offer came after six months of negotiations, when team officials told the city they were not prepared to pay the full charter transit fees, which sources said cost the team $1.226 million in 2013.
Information provided to councillors at a private seminar earlier this week outlined the city's offer to the Blue Bombers, which includes a discount of 42.3 per cent off Transit's charter rate in 2014, rising to 44.7 per cent in 2015.
The discount will cost the city $750,000 for 2014 and $950,000 in 2015.
The discount will only be offered if the province agrees to cover 50 per cent of it. A provincial government spokesman said the city's formal request to share the costs was received late Tuesday afternoon, adding the government accepted the terms of the deal "enthusiastically."
Wade Miller, Blue Bombers team president and CEO, said he spent the past six months negotiating the deal with city hall, adding the new rate is good for the team, its fans and the city.
'It would be nice if we could get a resolution to this'
Miller said he understood the deal will be presented to council at today's meeting.
"We can't sustain paying $1.1 million to $1.3 million (for transit services) every year," Miller said. "So we negotiated an agreement with the City of Winnipeg."
Miller said the team expects to save $650,000 to $750,000 in 2014.
He said the deal involves paying Winnipeg Transit $6 per rider, rather than a flat fee, which last year was $125,000 per event.
"It's now the end of April, and we've been working on this for six months," Miller said. "It would be nice if we could get a resolution to this."
Briefing notes supplied to councillors at the private meeting stated Transit incurs additional costs for stadium events, about $4 per rider, to cover additional mechanics and supervisors, and extra late-night shifts required to clean and fuel the buses for the next day's regular route service.
The briefing notes said those additional charges will now be carried by taxpayers.
Miller defended the new deal, explaining the regular cash fare for transit is $2.55, adding the Bombers will still be paying more, on a round-trip-basis, for its fans than that charged to regular transit riders.
"This is the agreement I negotiated with the city," Miller said. "If councillors don't want to pass it, then they don't have to pass it.
"We have an alternative solution we'll use if we need to."
Miller said there was no truth to reports the team planned to replace transit buses with school buses driven by volunteer drivers, but he would not elaborate on the alternative solution.
Mayor Sam Katz did not respond to a request for an interview on the proposed deal with the football team.
"We have no alternative but to make the team this offer," said Coun. Ross Eadie, one of a handful of councillors who attended the private meeting along with Katz.
Eadie (Mynarski) said councillors were told the Bombers were unwilling to raise ticket prices to cover the difference between the regular charter rate and the proposed discount, adding that would likely amount to $2 to $4 per ticket for each event.
Councillors were told the team threatened to hire school buses operated by volunteer drivers if the transit charge wasn't lowered, Eadie said.
"That would be a disaster for everyone," he said.
Eadie said the province has little option but to accept the deal, adding the football team can't repay the province if it's not making enough money from events.
"I know some people will say we shouldn't be offering a subsidy to the professional football team, but transit is already subsidized," Eadie said.
Eadie said without transit services, traffic on game day and for concerts would be chaotic, resulting in unimaginable delays and likely increasing the risk of collisions.
"Providing transit is the better solution and, realistically, the smart thing to do," Eadie said.
Would you go to Bomber games if they didn't pay for your bus ride? Join the conversation in the comments below.