For all their trials and tribulations in 2012 on the field and in the front office, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football Club should still turn a profit on their football team this season.
While the club will not earn anything remotely like the record $3-million profit they recorded on "normal operations" in 2011, a senior club official said Tuesday that the business of staging pro football in Winnipeg was still profitable in 2012.
"I'm very confident in telling you we will be in the black in normal operations," the club's chief operating officer Jim Bell told the Free Press on Wednesday. "Normal operations, we'll be fine. Of course, we'd like to do better, but given all that we encountered this year on and off the field, a 6-12 team and not being a playoff team is obviously going to affect your revenues and bottom line.
"But I think all in all, our fan support, our sponsor support... continue to demonstrate their loyalty through thick and then."
But there is a big caveat. While the Bombers were profitable in 2012 in what Bell describes as "normal operations" -- the running of the team and front office -- what isn't clear is whether all the extraordinary expenses the team had this season in continuing to construct a stadium will force the final full accounting for 2012 into the red.
"We have expenses related to stadium development that fall outside normal operations and I'm not sure where those will end up," Bell continued.
"But put it this way, if we do end up below the line, it's not going to be in the red to the extent some people might think it would be given the year we had relative to the year before... It's not like we're going to lose $3 million like we made $3 million the year before. It would be nothing like that, if it even happens at all...
"It's going to bring down our bottom line. It's just still a question of whether it puts us in the red or not."
While Bell refused to discuss specific numbers, some inferences can be drawn from the 2011 financial statement.
That document showed while the club's normal operations generated a $3.014-million profit, the actual net profit for 2011 was $2.333 million when the new stadium costs were deducted.
If those new stadium costs in 2011 (about $700,000) are comparable this year -- and Bell said they are -- that would suggest normal football operations in 2012 also generated a profit somewhere in that neighbourhood.
That would be down significantly from the profit in 2011, but that's hardly a surprise. The Bombers broke revenue and attendance records in 2011 in a season that saw the team go all the way to the Grey Cup, while revenues lagged in 2012 as the club missed the playoffs.
Bell said ticket revenue in 2012 was down six to seven per cent compared to 2011, while merchandise sales are expected to finish down seven to eight per cent once all the expected Christmas sales are counted up.
In addition, the club's expenses in 2012 also went up due in part to the extra costs incurred in not being able to move into the new-stadium as they planned.
Bell said the new stadium costs category this year does not include the unexpected extra costs of opening Canad Inns Stadium this season when it became clear the new stadium was not going to be ready in time. Bell said those costs -- as well as the costs of firing head coach Paul LaPolice mid-season -- were included in the normal operations category, dragging that profit margin down. Bell described the still-to-be tabulated new-stadium costs for this season as primarily professional fees associated with all the lawyers, accountants, consultants and other professionals the club has had to pay through the construction of the new stadium.
Bell said the club lost less than five per cent of its committed corporate sponsorships for the 2012 season when it became clear the team was not going to move into the new stadium in 2012.
But he added those corporate sales have since been made up and both corporate sponsorships and season-ticket renewals are at the same levels as they were at this time in 2011.
"We've already got the best fans in the country and with us moving into the best stadium in the country next season, we've got a lot to look forward to."
Beginning next year, the Bombers will have to make annual loan repayments to the province of $4 million to repay their share of the costs of building the $185-million stadium.
Bell said the club has also budgeted $40,000 to $50,000 for the upcoming year to move the team from Canad Inns Stadium to the new stadium.
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