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Bombers & IGF: The "hidden" cost

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Launch of park and ride service

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Launch of park and ride service

Way, way back on June 12, my wife and I were two of the thousands of Blue Bomber fans who took advantage of the then new park and ride transit service to get to Investors Group Field for the pre-season game.

We parked our car at Manitoba Hydro on Taylor Ave and then hustled to the end of a long line up so we could board a bus to get to the stadium in time for kickoff.

Long story short — we were late.

Back in June and July a lot of attention was paid to why the Winnipeg Football Club didn't recognize the need for additional transit and police resources to ensure more timely flow of fans to and from the game.

It was a hard lesson learned and one reason why former president and CEO Garth Buchko resigned Aug. 9. 

It was a few weeks later I learned the extra transit and "special duty" police services were costing the Blue Bombers some big money. On game day, the Bombers are supposed to pick up the tab for these services, not the city or taxpayer. It's been this way as long as I can remember.

I won't repeat the outstanding amount because I cannot get it officially confirmed. No one wants to tell me. Not police, not transit and not the Bombers.

So be it. 

I thought then as now that the amount was important because it goes to the team's bottom line and what it can afford to put on the field.

On Oct. 1 I sent Blue Bomber media spokesman Darren Cameron this email:

Darren:

Can I find out how much money the Winnipeg Blue Bombers owes the Winnipeg Police Service in exchange for its officers working overtime to provide security and to direct traffic before and after football games?
My understanding is that officers work at the games on their own time but that football club pays the overtime, not the City of Winnipeg.
My understanding is that the Bombers owe the WPS more than ($ ---, ---). Does the football club know when this will be paid?
I also understand that the football club owes Winnipeg Transit a larger amount for the services it provides in moving fans. What is that amount and when will it be paid?

A short time later I got his reply:

Bruce,

Since moving into Investors Group Field, the WFC has developed strong working relationships with both City Transit and Police which includes meeting our financial obligations for the important services they provide to football fans and concert goers. Thanks.

Over the next few days I filed Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requests with Winnipeg Transit and the Winnipeg Police Service to not only get the outstanding amounts owing to the two civic services, but also to get an idea of the amount of resources the two departments committed to the Bombers to safely move people before and after games, but also to the June 22 Taylor Swift and Aug. 12 Paul McCartney concerts.

I got squat on the first part of my request.

Because there is a third party involved, the Bombers, and Winnipeg Transit will not to cough up any confidential details on the cost to the Bombers of transit buses that could in any way, "have an impact on the competitive position, contractual or other negotiations of a third party; or that may result in financial loss or gain to a third party."

Plus, the Bombers say release of the information, specifically from transit, could interfere with their negotiations with other organizations (unspecified) that host events at IGF and require transit service.

Police said essentially the same thing. Both said I could appeal to the Ombudsman.

I didn't come up entirely empty, however.

Police say they will give me partial access to some of my questions, like police resources used for traffic control. I'll get that information later this month. Police also pointed out their fees for special duty officers are posted on their website.

Transit also gave me this information on the number of buses used and riders carried post-game:

- June 22 Taylor Swift concert: 166 buses were used to carry 9,833 total riders, including 6,407 riders who used park and ride.

- June 27 game against the Alouettes: 210 buses were used to carry 11,997 total riders, including 6,497 riders who used park and ride.

- July 19 game against the Argos: 219 buses; 10,205 total riders including 5,714 who used park and ride.

- July 26 game against Stampeders: 200 buses; 9,612 total riders including 6,083 who used park and ride.

- Aug. 12 Paul McCartney concert: 201 buses; 11,771 total riders including 6,056 who used park and ride.

- Aug. 16 game against the Tiger Cats: 218 buses; 11,479 total riders including 6,511 who used park and ride.

- Sept. 8 game against the Roughriders: 207 buses; 11,826 total riders including 7,088 who used park and ride.

- Sept. 20 game against the Eskimos: 180 buses; 10,116 total riders including 4,804 who used park and ride.

- Sept. 27 game against the Lions: 181 buses; 9,682 total riders including 5,034 who used park and ride.

At each event, transit had on duty on average 25 transit supervisors and three transit maintenance staff.

When I get the partial information from police I'll repost this blog with what they provide.

I recognize that this is mostly all water under the bridge and that the team wants to focus on the new season under new coach Mike O'Shea.

On a personal note, after 25 years as a season-ticket holder, I'm not renewing. It's not so much the debacle of last season — I sat through some bad years at Winnipeg Stadium, too — it's just time to take a break and do something else.

POSTCRIPT: Thanks to @JustinShinohara on Twitter for this. It's the 2013 annual report for Bicycle Valet Winnipeg, a service I used the entire season. 

These few words from the report speak to how well BVW was received by bike-riding fans:

"Due to the success of the program at the Investors Group Field, BVW has been approached by other cities, stadiums and bike valet programs requesting information and guidance."

POSTSCIPT II: Manitoba Public Insurance says it has a three-year sponsorship agreement with the Bombers valued at $330,000 in total.

MPI says this fee includes the Park and Ride Fan Fare transit shuttle bus program, the bike valet service, a road-safety themed game day, year-round signage in the stadium's concourse and a charity ticket program.

 

 

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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