Blue in the black

CFL team's financial report answers stadium naysayers

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There were a lot of skeptics who wondered how the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would make their annual payments on Investors Group Field and whether the taxpayer would ultimately be left holding the bag.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/04/2016 (2423 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There were a lot of skeptics who wondered how the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would make their annual payments on Investors Group Field and whether the taxpayer would ultimately be left holding the bag.

The Bombers answered those critics loud and clear Wednesday with an annual financial report that shows even losing football — the most common type in these parts — is enormously profitable in this town.

Despite posting a 5-13 record in 2015 and missing the CFL playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, the Bombers recorded an operating profit of $4.4 million on total revenues of $28.3 million.

That $4.4-million figure does not include the $7.1-million profit for playing host to the 2015 Grey Cup the team announced earlier this week.

Add those two numbers together and the Bombers turned a record profit of $11.5 million in 2015, as compared to $3.9 million in 2014.

According to the annual financial report, $4.5 million of last year’s profits went towards the club’s annual stadium payment and a further $1.5 million went towards stadium improvements.

The Bombers banked a total of $5.1 million, which bumps the value of the team’s net assets to $12.5 million (including what is now a $2.1-million operating reserve the club can draw on in lean times).

There is no longer any question whether the Bombers can meet their financial obligations to the province — they haven’t missed a payment yet despite posting the grand total of 15 wins during their first three seasons at IGF — and they now have a healthy bankroll if times get tough financially.

The much more compelling question is: how profitable would the Bombers be if they ever make the playoffs?

“You’re absolutely right — if we start winning on the football field, it’s not hard to figure out what is going to occur,” Bombers chief executive officer Wade Miller said in an interview Wednesday.

The biggest source of team revenue continues to be season-ticket sales, which made up 29 per cent of the total in 2015. But ticket revenue has dropped two years in a row as the team has continued to struggle on the field, to $9.79 million last season from $10.01 million in 2014 and $10.27 million in 2013.

Still, those declines have been offset by a new stadium that is functioning as the team always hoped it would — as a major source of revenue.

Stadium revenues represented 21 per cent of the Bombers’ total in 2015 — second only to season tickets — in a year in which the facility also played host to multiple concerts and major events, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Those sorts of events come with extra costs, as expenses in 2015 rose $1.1 million to $23.9 million. Miller said about three-quarters of the increased costs were due to playing host to so many events last year.

IGF will be the site of the NHL’s Heritage Classic in October. Miller said there are currently no concerts booked for IGF in 2016.

MELISSA TAIT / FREE PRESS FILES About 75 per cent of increased costs were due to hosting other events at Investors Group Field in 2015, including the FIFA Womens World Cup. But those same events also contributed to the increase in revenues last year, the report states.

However, there are a couple of cautionary notes.

The report states “the actual costs to operate and maintain Investors Group Field have been higher than our pre-opening estimates.”

And: “We continue to incur very high game-day transportation expenses associated with the fees paid to Winnipeg Transit to provide transit service to Investors Group Field.”

Miller said the unexpected maintenance and operating costs of IGF — which include things such as a higher-than-expected hydro bill — are a relatively small item in the team’s budget. But he said game-day transit costs continue to be about a half-million dollars more per year than the CFL team projected when it moved into the facility.

While there’s not much that can be done about the stadium’s bottleneck location on the University of Manitoba campus — and an original game-day transportation plan that was immediately shown to be inadequate when IGF opened in 2013 — Miller said the team continues to negotiate with the city for a more cost-efficient, game-day transit plan.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @PaulWiecek

tait: cue the financial td celebration dance c4

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

History

Updated on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 1:07 PM CDT: Updates with full writethrough

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