Construction delays at Investors Group Field will force the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to go on an extended road trip to start the 2012 CFL season and play a pre-season game in an unfinished new home.

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This article was published 27/1/2012 (3428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The new home of the Blue Bombers rises above University Crescent.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The new home of the Blue Bombers rises above University Crescent.

Construction delays at Investors Group Field will force the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to go on an extended road trip to start the 2012 CFL season and play a pre-season game in an unfinished new home.

The stadium's official opening date could be pushed back to as late as September's Banjo Bowl.

A hard date on when Investors Group Field will be fully operational remains unclear. Incoming Bombers chief executive officer Garth Buchko told the Free Press Friday windy conditions at the stadium construction site have created a two- to three-week schedule lag.

"It has shut us down for 11 days in December and for a few more this month," Buchko said Friday morning. "Most people think that we're the luckiest people in the world for building this when it's -1 C outside, but there have been other factors.

"It's better to be -25 C with no wind than what we've had lately."

Garth Buchko: "cautionary" move

CP

Garth Buchko: "cautionary" move

However, two sources in the construction industry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Free Press the club is "two to three months behind schedule."

That would put an official opening date for the 33,500-seat stadium at the University of Manitoba at around the Banjo Bowl, which is usually played the weekend after Labour Day.

Last August, Bomber officials expressed extreme confidence the ribbon cutting for the new stadium would occur prior to the team's home opener in June.

But those estimates were based on Investors Group Field being 100 per cent complete, Buchko says, not being merely football-ready. He suggests while the club did set an aggressive construction timeline for the 2012 season kickoff, the reality is they only need to have the bare-bones components in place before throwing open the doors to the public.

Some of those basic requirements include seats, washrooms, elevators and all the mechanisms needed to play a football game, such as field turf, goalposts and a scoreboard.

The incoming Bombers CEO (he officially starts in March) said the $190-million project, which will also house the University of Manitoba Bisons football team, is still on budget.

A steelworker scrambles among the beams being hung at Investors Group Field as construction continues Friday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A steelworker scrambles among the beams being hung at Investors Group Field as construction continues Friday.

Buchko raised the stakes Friday by ruling out using Canad Inns Stadium, the Bombers' old home, as a safety net. He said the club has measured the value of the public's first impression inside a work-in-progress new facility against the possible letdown of having to return to the old stadium.

That means no games at Canad Inns Stadium. No pre-season game at the Polo Park landmark either.

"We will not play a game in the old stadium," Buchko said. "We have a plan and we're sticking to it. We plan to play a pre-season game at Investors Group Field and we'll work with the challenges that result with not having some of the esthetics done.

"There's no chance of us returning to the old stadium."

Those esthetics, such as the complete list of concession options, concourse luxuries (television screens), and landscaping outside the stadium, will have to be picked away at once the season starts.

To add some padding to this soft opening, the Bombers have asked the league if they can start the 2012 schedule on the road for "a few games." That could be one, two or up to four games on the road, Buchko said, adding he won't know what the travel itinerary will look like until next week, when the CFL is expected to release its 2012 pre-season and regular-season schedule.

Buchko said the request was made for "cautionary" reasons.

"All I can say is that we will play some games at the start on the road."

Premier Greg Selinger said it is too soon to be concerned about construction delays, noting the Bombers hope to play catch-up when the weather improves.

"They seem to have a plan to try and make it up. So I think it's too early for anybody to be overly concerned about delays," he said Friday.

On Friday, a league spokesman said the CFL has not been made aware of any plan for Winnipeg to start the 2012 season at Canad Inns Stadium.

The organization is expected to begin moving the office operations to the new stadium complex in April, with the football side slowly trickling over as the season approaches. As of now, training camp is scheduled to be held at Investors Group Field.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

-- with files from Larry Kusch