Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wind not only reason for stadium delay

Contractor accuses firm of starting job four months late

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As some Winnipeg football fans suspected, high winds over the winter aren't the only reason the new football stadium is behind schedule.

What fans may not have known: Investors Group Field was never expected to be finished before September 2012, never mind in time for tonight's home opener between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos.

The general contractor responsible for building the Winnipeg Football Club's new home and the structural-steel subcontractor are blaming each other for the delay in completing the $190-million stadium at the University of Manitoba campus.

When a deal to build the stadium was announced in December 2010, the project was expected to be complete in time for the 2012 season.

But in March 2012, the Winnipeg Football Club revealed construction delays would require the first five games of the season to be played at Canad Inns Stadium. Then in June, the club announced the Bombers would play at their old home for the entire season.

Initially, general contractor Stuart Olson Dominion Construction attributed the delay to high winds that complicated the erection of steel framing for the stadium's roof.

The winds were indeed a factor, Stuart Olson Dominion officials told construction industry analysts in a conference call this week. But they also placed the blame at the feet of Structal Heavy Steel Construction, which they accused of starting the job three to four months late.

Stuart Olson Dominion officials said they are pursuing a claim against Structal -- which they did not identify by name -- for losses incurred as a result of the delay.

The $190-million price tag for Investors Group Field was guaranteed under the terms of the deal between Stuart Olson Dominion and the BBB Stadium, the tax-exempt, non-profit organization set up to develop and build the stadium on behalf of the football club, the U of M Bisons and amateur sport.

Stuart Olson Dominion claims it has incurred additional costs for overtime, heating and insulated winter fencing because it has been forced to resequence other aspects of the construction job. A claim against Structal will be made to recover these costs, officials said.

But a spokesman for Structal said the general contractor is to blame, claiming the foundation for the stadium was not done in time to begin the steel work.

Structal also accused Stuart Olson Dominion of inexperience, claiming there have not been enough managers and superintendents on the site and other components of the stadium project -- including electrical work, plumbing, bowl excavation and the construction of wall partitions -- have yet to be finished, months after the steel work was complete.

Structal claims it is being targeted because it's the largest subcontractor on the job and thus the only company capable of paying up. The steel firm is preparing a claim of its own against Stuart Olson Dominion, its spokesman said.

Structal also alleged the timeline for completing the stadium was unrealistic, claiming only two months were allotted for all trades to complete their work following a July 6 target date for completing the steel work.

Stuart Olson Dominion's schedule called for the stadium to open on Sept. 9, Structal claims.

BBB Stadium chairman Phil Sheegl, the City of Winnipeg's chief executive officer and representative on the organization, confirmed the stadium has always been slated to open in September, although the contractor was supposed to "make every effort" to open it earlier.

BBB Stadium still expects the stadium to be finished in September.

"No one has mentioned to us, in writing, anything different," Sheegl said.

The other members of BBB Stadium are U of M associate vice-president John Alho, provincial representative Vince Barletta and Winnipeg Football Club president and CEO Garth Buchko.

The football club declined interview requests on Wednesday.

"We won't be commenting on this story at this time," spokesman Darren Cameron said.


-- with files from Murray McNeill

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2012 A4

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