In a season in which not much has gone right -- on the field or off of it -- the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are still pledging that all the travails won't affect their ability to pay their considerable bills.
"The WFC is on target to meet its financial obligations," Bombers acting CEO Wade Miller said in a brief but emphatic statement to the Free Press on Thursday.
With ticket sales falling amidst a 2-11 season and the club beset by all sorts of unanticipated expenses associated with their new stadium, there has been increasing concern -- expressed recently as high as the premier's office -- the Bombers might not be able to make loan payments on the new Investors Group Field that total about $4.5 million annually.
The Bombers did not make Miller available on Thursday for further questions or comment, but his one-sentence statement stands as the club's first public comment on whether their troubled inaugural season at Investors Group Field was going to affect their ability to make their loan payments on the new stadium.
While the Bombers have struggled mightily on the field, they have benefited from having a record season ticket base this year of just under 25,000 -- and Winnipeggers curious to see the new stadium, if not necessarily the team playing inside it.
Through seven regular-season home dates this year, the Bombers have averaged 31,507 fans per game. The club needs to average just over 30,000 fans per game to meet its budget for ticket revenue this season and it appears they will finish close to that mark even with single-game ticket sales now in a free fall.
The Bombers said Thursday they have already sold 27,500 tickets for a home date in two weeks against the Toronto Argonauts and 26,000 for the final regular-season game early next month versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Even if the club does not sell another single ticket the rest of the season, those totals would see Winnipeg finish the 2013 season averaging 30,450 fans per game this season. That's an all-time franchise record -- and at a higher average ticket price than ever before.
The previous franchise attendance mark was set in 2011 when the Bombers averaged 29,532 fans per game.
The Bombers turned a record total profit on operations in the 2011 season of $3.014 million, although the net profit that year came to $2.33 million after $680,709 worth of stadium-development expenses were deducted.
The Bombers are presently averaging the third highest attendance in the CFL this season, trailing only the Edmonton Eskimos and league-leading Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bombers also announced at the start of this season their corporate sales for 2013 were an all-time record. The club has also hosted two sold-out concerts this year at Investors Group Field -- a Taylor Swift Show in June and a Paul McCartney concert in August.
While it's not clear how much profit the club turned on those two concerts, concerts that the Bombers staged at Canad Inns Stadium in previous years generated as much as $450,000 in profit per concert for the club.
On the downside, the club has also had to find money this season for a lot of unexpected expenses. In addition to the one-time expense of moving from one stadium to the other, there has also been unanticipated expenses, including: the renovation of an outdoor press box; the addition of gates and stairs to provide field access from the grandstands; extra police and transit services to deal with traffic snarls that plagued the club during the first few games; and severance packages to fired CEO Garth Buchko, GM Joe Mack and offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton.
The club will reap a financial bonanza, however, beginning next season when a new broadcast deal will kick in between TSN and the CFL. That deal will see the annual payment the Bombers receive from TV rights jump from about $1.5 million this year to over $3.5 million for each of the next five seasons.
The Bombers budgeted for TV revenues to remain flat at $1.5 million per year in their original business plan for the new stadium and the new TV deal represents over $2 million a year in "found money" for the club above its original budget projections.