Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–15–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The good news? It could have been worse

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It was never going to be pretty, not after a year that saw the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' on-field operations do battle with the team's off-field operations in the Futility Bowl.

But until the release on Tuesday of the club's 2012 annual report, nobody could be certain exactly what the sum of a 6-12 season and operating two stadiums at the same time would equal in the ugly column.

The answer, in cold hard cash, turned out to be $758,307.

A loss of just over three-quarters of a million dollars for the Winnipeg Football Club in 2012 was probably the least that could reasonably have been expected after a disastrous 2012 season that saw the club's missteps on the field marry with missteps off of it in a perfect storm of CFL awfulness.

But while there was all kinds of talk from the Bombers executive at a Tuesday afternoon news conference about the team being about to embark on a bright new future with the upcoming move into Investors Group Field for the 2013 season, even the guys at the top knew there was only so much lipstick they could slap on the pig that was the last year at Canad Inns Stadium.

"We all had far better expectations than we were able to achieve, on and off the field, in 2012," outgoing Bombers board chairman Bill Watchorn told a news conference at Canad Inns Polo Park.

"Looking back on 2012," said club CEO Garth Buchko, "it is easy to identify the disappointments we experienced. However, at the risk of being called an optimist -- which I certainly am -- you can't build a world class facility and team by focusing on the past."

Buchko reported the Bombers actually posted a healthy profit in 2012 on the football side of operations, recording a surplus of $726,930. That's the third highest profit the club has turned since 2000, although it pales in comparison with the $3 million record profit the club posted on staging football in 2011.

But Buchko said unexpected costs for the new stadium development cost the team $1,050,950 in 2012 and the one-time write-down of assets at old Canad Inns Stadium cost the club another $434,287 to push the club back into the red.

Bombers ticket revenue in 2012 was also down seven per cent from 2011 to $7.8 million, but record corporate sponsorship jumped to $3.03 million and helped offset the declines at the gate.

Buchko said the ticket revenue decline came despite 22,000 season tickets being sold in 2012, which was a club record until the team announced Tuesday it has sold 23,000 for the 2013 season.

Buchko said the club's poor record, the failure to move into the new stadium and some very poor weather all led to a smaller walkup crowd in 2012 than in 2011. "We had three games with monsoons prior to and during our games," he said.

Total operating expenses jumped nine per cent over 2011, fueled by cost increases in marketing and administration and football operations. Buchko said football operations costs rose six per cent in 2012 over 2011 and are now up nine per cent since 2010.

Despite the 2012 loss, the club has $5.871 million in the bank heading into the 2013 season. In 2000, the Bombers had a $5.5-million deficit.

FIELDNOTES: Incoming Bombers board chairman Brock Bulbuck, the president and CEO of Boyd Group Income Fund, said the club will bid for either the 2015 or 2016 Grey Cup. This year's Grey Cup is in Regina and the 2014 game is in Vancouver... Bulbuck said the club will change its bylaws to add a 13th director to the Bombers board. He said the director -- and all new future directors -- will be hired out of a public nomination process.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 24, 2013 C4

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