So what would a Grey Cup game and Heritage Classic outdoor hockey game at Investors Group Field during the winter of 2015-16 be worth in cold, hard cash to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?
A couple million, minimum. Somewhere in the range of $5 million, probably. Something approaching $10 million -- only if all the stars align, including the Bombers actually playing in the big game.
Neither the Bombers nor the CFL were talking in detail on Monday after news leaked out CFL commissioner Mark Cohon will announce in Winnipeg Wednesday the Bombers have been awarded the rights to host the 2015 Grey Cup at Investors Group Field, which is also expected to be the site of an NHL Heritage Classic a couple of months later.
The best predictor of future performance is always past performance so there are some strong inferences that can be drawn from previous events about what hosting these major spectacles would mean to the Bombers' bottom line.
Let's begin with the last time the Bombers hosted the Grey Cup in 2006, when the club generated a $3.3-million profit from the big game, which was played Nov. 19, 2006 before 44,786 fans at a temporarily expanded Canad Inns Stadium.
That's a little bit bigger crowd than what would be expected to attend the Grey Cup at Investors Group Field, which initial reports have suggested would be expanded to about 40,000 seats in 2015 to accommodate that year's Banjo Bowl as well as the Grey Cup and Heritage Classic.
But while the crowd in 2015 might be smaller than 2006, it's also worth mentioning Grey Cups have become increasingly profitable in recent years.
While the Toronto Argonauts are privately owned by David Braley and never released the profit figures from their hosting of the 100th Grey Cup in 2012, the Toronto Star reported at the time with a home team playing in the big game, a capacity crowd and a windfall of government money pumped into the centennial game, Braley turned something in the vicinity of a $10-million profit on hosting that year's Grey Cup.
That was extraordinary, however -- and so too was the profit generated by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last year, when they hosted and won the Grey Cup.
More typically, host profits on Grey Cups over the last 10-15 years have fallen in the $3-$6-million range. The Edmonton Eskimos, for instance, reportedly turned a profit of $6 million hosting the Grey Cup in 2002 and $4 million when they hosted again in 2010.
The bigger unknown is what kind of money a Heritage Classic could turn for the Bombers. Sources have told the Free Press an announcement is expected from the NHL, either this summer or in the fall at the latest, that the Jets will be hosting a Heritage game at Investors Group Field in the winter of 2015-16.
Those sorts of outdoor mega-hockey games have been enormously profitable events. The 2014 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on New Year's Day, for instance, turned a record profit of at least $20 million, thanks to a capacity crowd of 105,491.
The proceeds from such windfalls go primarily to the league and teams involved. In the case of the 2009 game played at Boston's Fenway Park, for instance, the NHL simply rented out Fenway for the event and then distributed the $8 million in ticket sales and $3 million in advertising revenue the game generated among the remaining parties.
That sounds like a similar model to what would be in place for a Heritage game at Investors Group Field.
"Bombers will not be partner in that. NHL is the partner. Stadium is the facility," True North spokesman Scott Brown explained Monday in response to a query.
It was unclear yesterday how much the Bombers could expect to receive as a rental fee in such an arrangement. But what is known is another recent special event -- the sold-out U2 concert at old Canad Inns Stadium in 2011 -- generated a profit of close to $500,000 for the club.