Forget about seeing Investors Group Field this season, Bomber fans.
The Winnipeg Football Club announced today it will play the entire 2012 home schedule at Canad Inns Stadium, ending months of speculation about when the club was planning to move into the new $190-million facility at the University of Manitoba.
The team is pointing to "weather related delays" as the reason for the decision. Originally, the Bombers were hoping to get into the 33,500-seat stadium for the July 26 home game (the first of the season). The club changed that projection a few weeks ago, aiming to get into the facility in September for the handful of remaining home dates.
Now, the club is scrapping the 2012 season altogether. They won't move into the new stadium until the 2013 season.
The Free Press will live stream team President and CEO Garth Buchko addressing the media this afternoon at 2 p.m. (see below).
Buchko issued a statement today on the matter in a press release:
"It is with great disappointment that we are making this announcement today, however we feel it is in the best interest of our fans, sponsors and entire organization to come to this decision. The reality is that unpredictable weather at a critical stage of construction, has made it difficult to pin down the ultimate completion date.
"Endeavoring to accelerate work to overcome weather disruptions, beyond what is reasonable and safe, will only create further delays along the way, potentially compromising worker safety and the ultimate fan experience.
"To open Investors Group Field prior to a state of total completion would not be fair to our fans as their first experience must be a positive one. The citizens of our city and province have waited a long time for a new stadium and it will be well worth the wait to have it opened properly. This decision will most importantly provide stability and certainty for our loyal and passionate fans, the football team and the entire Blue Bomber organization."
The Bombers admitted in February the new stadium was two months behind its original construction schedule, citing the weather -- specifically the wind -- as the reason for the delay.
In May, the Bombers announced the team would play at least five games in the soon-to-be-mothballed Canad Inns Stadium after construction delays at Investors Group Field pushed back the opening but did promise a fall opening date.
Later in May, strong winds knocked over a small wall, but Buchko said at the time this wouldn't make a difference to the opening date. Mike Clynes, project director at Stuart Olson Dominion, previously said crews cannot install steel beams when winds are blustery.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said the city planned for the possibility Canad Inns Stadium may not be vacated until November. The Winnipeg Football Club’s lease entitles the Bombers to continue to use the Polo Park stadium as long as the club needs to do so, Katz reiterated.
The delay will not affect the city, he said, other than it will take longer for property-tax revenue from new developments at the existing stadium site to begin flowing toward the province to help pay back Broadway’s stadium-building loan.
Last week, city officials confirmed the delay will also affect the sale of the existing stadium site and negotiations with at least one developer. Once the Polo Park site is sold, the city will devote $7.5 million of the sale proceeds to the new stadium project.
Katz also said the delay in completing Investors Group Field will not affect him as a season-ticket holder and as a fan.
"When football fans do get there next year and see what’s been done, they’re going to say ‘Wow,’ and they’ll absolutely love it," the mayor said.
- March 30, 2010 -- Plans to build the $115 million stadium are accelerated, the Bombers announce, with construction beginning in the summer.
- May 20, 2010 -- The sod is turned at the stadium site at the University of Manitoba.
- "It’s historic for this franchise," said then Bomber president Jim Bell.
- Nov. 3, 2010 -- A meeting between stadium stakeholders reveals the project will cost at least $160 million. Later, on Dec. 8, the city, province, Winnipeg Football Club and University of Manitoba agree to a deal to complete a stadium that will cost $190 million.
- Feb. 17, 2011 -- The steel piles are in the ground and now the concrete is being poured on the new football stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and University of Manitoba Bisons.
- "It’s very exciting to reach another crucial construction point on schedule," said Ossama AbouZeid, project manager.
- April 29, 2011 – "I’m happy to report the project remains on budget and on track to be finished in time for the (2012) CFL season," Premier Greg Selinger tells MLAs.
- June 24, 2011 -- The first structural steel members are put in place at the new stadium, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers announce.
- Aug. 27, 2011 -- Bombers interim CEO Ossama AbouZeid said as long as the weather co-operates over the next few months, the $190-million structure will open on time and on budget, just in time for the 2012 CFL season.
- While this summer’s favourable weather has helped them keep to their tight schedule, windy days delay things when workers are lifting steel beams into place and fastening them, AbouZeid said.
- Dec. 14, 2011 -- Blue Bombers interim CEO Ossama AbouZeid said the building is on schedule and doesn’t anticipate any delays in the immediate future. The stadium’s new name, Investors Group Field, is also announced.
- Jan. 4, 2012 -- Garth Buchko becomes the Bombers’ new CEO.
"This is the greatest opportunity an individual with my skill set could ever want."
Jan. 28, 2012 -- Garth Buchko says windy conditions at the stadium construction site have created a two- to three-week schedule lag. A few days earlier, the Winnipeg Football Club said they had no plans to play at the old stadium in the fall, despite delays.
- Feb. 27, 2012 -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers plan to open the 2012 regular season home schedule at Investors Group Field as scheduled, the club announces, despite concern the new stadium won’t be ready for the July 26 home opener.
- May 2, 2012 -- Buchko announces Wednesday that the closest thing to a guaranteed opening date is now Sept. 21, almost two months later than the last projected opening date of July 26.
- June 4, 2012 -- There are significant new "challenges" in the construction of the new football stadium.
"We’re currently evaluating. We’ve had some challenges the last few weeks with the heavy rain and the high winds. (An opening in September) will be a challenge, but as I say, we’re looking at that right now," says Rick Graumann, vice president of Stuart Olson Construction,
- June 15, 2012 – Bombers announce they will play the entire 2012 season at the old stadium due to construction delays because of weather.
-- Sources: Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Blue Bombers