Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drama finally over -- thanks

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in the end, to their everlasting credit, the board of directors of the Winnipeg Football Club took one for the team.

The board's announcement Friday that they've pulled the plug on their ill-advised plan to somehow shoehorn the Bombers into their new stadium in the upcoming season comes with a clear winner -- the team, and a clear loser -- the football club.

Let's deal with the winner first. With Friday's announcement, club CEO Garth Buchko and the Bombers board did two very good things for their football team.

First, the distraction that this entire stadium issue had become is now gone. And it was a distraction. You know what one of the first questions defensive back Jovon Johnson, the most outstanding defensive player in the CFL in 2011, was asked last week when reported to training camp?

So what do you think about playing in two stadiums this year?

It sucks, said Johnson.

Which gets us to the other reason Friday's announcement was in the best interests of the team: Trying to move an entire team to a new stadium in the middle of the season really was going to suck, exactly as Johnson said.

The logistics alone were a nightmare. But there's also a distinct advantage to playing where you have practised since training camp, and the Bombers would have to surrender it if they moved in the middle of this season.

The downside for the team is Friday's announcement means the players will have to spend another full season in the substandard home locker-room.

The good news? Visiting teams will have to spend a complete season in the exponentially worse visitors' locker-room, a point former Toronto Argonauts offensive lineman Rob Murphy drove home on his Twitter account Friday. He described the prospect of players spending another year contending with the "ice-cold, sandblasting showers" in the visitors' locker-room.

"It's a little-known fact that I lost my left nipple there in '07," Murphy tweeted.

Much will be made of the fact the Bombers wouldn't have to play their first four games of the 2012 regular season on the road this year if the club's board, before the CFL schedule came out last winter, had simply accepted that a stadium move wouldn't be realistic this year.

The Bombers open the regular season with some tough games on the road in Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto, and critics were all over Twitter Friday with nightmare scenarios of what will happen if Winnipeg goes 0-4.

But that's true of any season, right?

How about another scenario, one where Winnipeg opens at 2-2 or 3-1 and comes home for four straight games?

A tall order, but it says here that Edmonton will be lousy this year, at home and on the road.

Toronto will be better than their last-place finish in the East last year, but still very beatable. And the Bombers have now won two straight in Montreal if you count their 22-10 pre-season victory this week.

In other words, calm down.

What's the downside to all this? It's all financial, as far as I can tell. This little debacle will cost the Bombers a lot this season, although most of it will be luxury-box revenue they wouldn't have earned anyway if they had decided at the outset to play this whole year at Canad Inns Stadium.

There will be extra costs associated with the whole charade of attempting to play in two stadiums this year, but those appear comparatively minor. And almost all the corporate sponsors who ponied up extra in anticipation of the new stadium this year have very generously agreed to honour their original commitment to the club.

The best news is the Bombers made a record $3-million profit in 2011 and should be able to absorb the financial hit this year if they can, as everyone expects even now, again play to a mostly sold-out Canad Inns Stadium.

None of this will placate the naysayers in this community, who will love the schadenfreude of this announcement and will seize the opportunity to brag, "See? I told you so. Change is bad." If we'd listened to those people, we'd still have no new ballpark, no new arena and no NHL team.

Finally, there's this: Although you can demand someone's head on a platter for being so hopelessly wrong on when Investors Group Field will be completed, two things didn't change with Friday's announcement.

First, we're still getting a hell of a deal. The $190 million we're paying for what looks like a true architectural landmark is a fraction of what other new CFL stadiums are costing. The renovation to BC Place in Vancouver was $550 million. Estimates for Saskatchewan's proposed new stadium in Regina have run as high as $400 million.

Sources say that when all the bills are tallied, the company building Winnipeg's new stadium, Stuart Olson Dominion Construction Ltd., may just have built us a megaproject for free.

Winnipeggers love a bargain, and we're getting one.

Secondly, there is the overriding fact that most of the construction delays that led to Friday's announcement were for the most fundamental of reasons: worker safety. The reason they couldn't put that canopy roof up in high winds is because it would have been unsafe to do so -- simple as that,

Know what happens when you try to build a stadium unsafely? At the end of construction, you put up a memorial plaque that becomes an indelible stain on your building forever. Just as they had to do at Milwaukee's Miller Park, where three workers died building that stadium in 1999 when a crane collapsed while lifting a section of roof.

An investigation in Milwaukee later found high winds were at least partly to blame for the accident.

What price is too high? That price is too high.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2012 C1

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