Blue Bomber Report Record: 7–11–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stare down over stadium's escalating tab

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CHICAGO -- The silence Winnipeggers are hearing on the stadium issue is the sound of friends staring at the bill after a very expensive dinner.

No one wants to pick up the cheque and they're all quietly waiting each other out, hoping someone will reach down and grab it first.

Don't be surprised if the restaurant lights get turned out before someone flinches.

The province, Blue Bombers and City Hall are working together to put a new funding package in place that will ensure a new football stadium gets built.

They all want the same thing and that's a new park for the Bombers to play in. But how it gets done and who pays for what leaves all three parties on different sides. There is very real difference of opinion right now on who pays for what and how much gets spent on the stadium.

The price of the new stadium has been a moving target for some time and it continues to rise. Early estimates had the stadium coming in somewhere around $160 million but that number is now laughably out of date.

The latest figure being bandied around by the stadium partners is very close to $200 million. That figure has at least one of the partners ready to push away from the table.

There's been lots of talk about an announcement and a press conference but sources told us Tuesday a deal has yet to be inked and there are issues that still must be solved.

They may be down to the short strokes but until they're shored up, the slices of the pie and the cost to each partner remains in flux.

Everyone wants the best deal from their viewpoint and it's become a bit of a political game of chicken.

Leverage is key and the edge in that department goes to Mayor Sam Katz, who was given a fresh endorsement from his constituents just over a month ago.

Premier Greg Selinger has yet to win an election and has the Progressive Conservatives and leader Hugh McFadyen sniping every time he turns, no matter the direction.


Selinger's political career could very well hang in the balance and for the NDP government how this deal looks and smells to the voting public is paramount. Selinger must get the stadium built and he must make it look palatable to the taxpayer.

The Bombers are caught in the middle without the money to buy their way out. They will likely sign what is placed before them and be forced to suck it up. The club is nothing but footballs and sweaters without a stadium.

The Bombers can't afford to build a new stadium on their own and require the city and the province to carry the day. They have needs but no means.

When the government folks, provincial and municipal, say sign here -- the Bombers will have to capitulate.

Look for the football team to take on a heavy chunk of debt when all is settled.

Another party that has been very silent for some time now is David Asper.

Asper, you might remember, drove this project when no one else was willing to get behind the wheel. The original deal called for Asper to build the stadium with a bridge loan from the province and then pay it back with the proceeds from a retail development on the site of the old stadium north of Polo Park.

Asper's deal fell apart when it became apparent the stadium couldn't be built for the cost he originally pledged to cover.

Where is Asper now in terms of the deal? Likely on the outside for the time being but the hot rumour on Tuesday had him picking up a seat on the Bombers board for his troubles.

This whole debacle has become a bit like a game of Clue, what with riddles to solve and the characters involved.

Come to think of it, however, perhaps Clueless is the more apt analogy.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2010 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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