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The Winnipeg Football Club's construction woes at the University of Manitoba are having a domino effect on city efforts to sell the Canad Inns Stadium site and redevelop the valuable Polo Park land.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2012 (3836 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Football Club’s construction woes at the University of Manitoba are having a domino effect on city efforts to sell the Canad Inns Stadium site and redevelop the valuable Polo Park land.

And this, in turn, is preventing the city from following through on a financial commitment toward Investors Group Field at the U of M’s Fort Garry campus.

In 2010, when city council approved a plan to build a $190-million new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, $82.5 million worth of stadium funding hinged upon the city’s sale of the existing stadium at Polo Park.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press archive

The U of M stadium deal called for the City of Winnipeg to devote $7.5 million from the proceeds of the sale of the Canad Inns site toward the construction of the new stadium. More significantly, city and provincial property taxes from new residential and commercial developments at the Canad Inns site were supposed to pay back $75 million of a provincial construction loan.

This plan initially envisioned the Winnipeg Football Club vacating Canad Inns Stadium before the start of the 2012 CFL season.

With that timeline in mind, in April 2011, the city invited developers to come forward with proposals to redevelop the 26.2-acre Polo Park site, ideally as a mixed-use development with residential and commercial components. After the expression-of-interest period closed in June 2011, the city started negotiating with at least one developer, city spokeswoman Michelle Bailey confirmed.

But in March of this year, when the Winnipeg Football Club announced the Bombers would continue to play at Canad Inns Stadium until September due to construction delays at Investors Group Field, the city’s plans for the site wound up in the air.

“Because the date has changed, that certainly has had an impact on negotiations,” said city council property chairman Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), who confirmed the city has been speaking with a “top-ranked proponent” but could not identify the developer in question.

“Obviously, any delays with the new stadium site are going to push back the times in Canad Inns Stadium,” Browaty said.

Given the uncertainty about when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will move into their stadium at the U of M, the negotiations over Polo Park are on hold, he suggested.

“We can safely say we need to have absolute certainty about when (the new stadium) is ready before we set a date to hand over the Canad Inns Stadium site,” Browaty said.

The City of Winnipeg declined requests for interviews regarding the sale of the Canad Inns Stadium site, whose value has been pegged in the vicinity of $30 million.

A report identifying the city’s preferred developer is expected to come before council’s property committee in July and, as the result of an expression of interest document, likely won’t have to come before city council as a whole.

The Winnipeg Football Club, whose lease allows it to remain at Canad Inns Stadium as long as the Bombers need to play there, is expected to miss out on as much as $182,000 worth of revenue for each game played at the old stadium this year, based on ticket-price differentials between the two buildings and ticket-revenue projections included in city budget estimates.

But the football club will not be affected by the city’s inability to sell Canad Inns Stadium, Bomber board chairman Bill Watchorn said. The provincial construction loan allows work on Investors Group Field to proceed without the $7.5-million city grant or the generation of new property-tax revenue at Polo Park.

“It’s not an issue for the Winnipeg Football Club,” said Watchorn, adding the timing of the club’s move may be more of an issue for the city. “That may put them in the box.”

Several members of the Winnipeg Football Club’s board of directors said Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl and other city officials expressed concern about when exactly the team would leave Canad Inns Stadium.

“They talked about having interested parties, but it was in the context of, ‘We want to know when you’re getting out. The sooner, the better,’ ” Watchorn said. “We told them we would stay as long as we needed to stay.”

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Where the money comes from

Sources of funding for Investors Group Field, the $190-million stadium under construction at the University of Manitoba:

Winnipeg Football Club: $85 million, using revenue from luxury boxes, naming rights, entertainment taxes, facility fees and special events.

Tax-increment financing: $75 million, from future property taxes emanating from new commercial and/or residential developments at the Canad Inns Stadium site. Right now, the football club pays no property taxes.

Provincial grant: $22.5 million

City grant: $7.5 million, using proceeds from the sale of the Canad Inns Stadium site.

 

What else?

Provincial construction loan: The province is covering at least $160 million worth of construction costs up front.

Recreation improvements at the U of M: All three levels of government are paying for $22.5 million worth of renovations to University Stadium and the construction of a new university fitness centre. Ottawa contributed $15 million, the province is spending $5 million and the city is contributing $2.5 million.

 

— source: City of Winnipeg

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