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Stadium players converge on cost

Development deal will have maximum limit agreed upon

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/12/2010 (3530 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Excavation for the new Winnipeg Blue Bomber stadium continues at University of Manitoba Wednesday afternoon.

JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Excavation for the new Winnipeg Blue Bomber stadium continues at University of Manitoba Wednesday afternoon.

A proposed deal to complete Winnipeg's new football stadium calls for the Winnipeg Football Club -- not Creswin Properties -- to manage the construction of a facility now pegged at $190 million or more.

The players trying to build a 33,000-seat stadium at the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus are working out the final details of a plan that would see the provincial government front most of the construction costs on a stadium with all of the features promised during the spring.

A deal will be announced within days and be ready to present to the final city council meeting of the year on Dec. 15, Premier Greg Selinger told reporters at the Manitoba Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

"We think that there's been a lot of excellent work been done by everybody, which should allow it to get to that stage," Selinger said of the impending announcement. "People would like to bring closure to the issue... and people feel that they're very close to having that situation in hand now."

Earlier in the day, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said all parties were close to a decision, but insisted he would not sign off on a stadium deal if there's no hard ceiling on the construction costs.

"If there's no guaranteed maximum price, I'm not interested," Katz told reporters outside his office,

Selinger said the parties involved in the deal -- the city, province, football club, the University of Manitoba and private construction firms -- are working towards the guaranteed maximum price.

David Asper's Creswin Properties, the initial developer, is expected to depart from the project, which it originally intended to finance by building a high-end mall at the existing Canad Inns Stadium site in the Polo Park area.

A spokeswoman for Creswin declined to comment Wednesday. It's unclear how much compensation the company would receive for engineering, design and other work it has conducted.

The new proposed deal would see the City of Winnipeg sell the Polo Park stadium land to the highest bidder and divert some of the proceeds -- sources say about $7 million -- toward the stadium construction. Previously, the city was not planning to contribute any money up front. The city would then be free to use the rest of sale proceeds to conduct Polo Park area traffic improvements.

The province has already agreed to provide a $15-million grant toward the project and offer a $90-million stadium-building loan. As per the terms of the previous deal, new city and provincial property taxes stemming from new developments at the Polo Park site would pay back the provincial loan through a mechanism called tax-increment financing. Right now, Canad Inns Stadium does not generate any property taxes.

The other new component of the proposed deal will see the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on the hook for at least $70 million of the stadium construction. The club will be expected to repay the province over time, using revenue streams such as naming rights and ticket fees.

Katz said he is still scrutinizing the Winnipeg Football Club's business plan to see whether this is viable. One of the original motivations for building a new stadium was to provide new revenue streams for the football club and ensure its future financial solvency.

A spokesman for the football club declined to comment. Sources at the city and province insisted the deal remains tentative, as the issue of the guaranteed maximum price has not been settled. A deal could be announced as soon as Friday, they said.

If a deal is reached, the province would be on the hook if the Winnipeg Football Club cannot meet its future commitments.

"It's going to be an outstanding obligation the football club owes the provincial government," said a source close to the discussions. "The province has a decent chance of coming out not terrible on this. It's not going to be good for them, but it might not be the disaster people thought it would be."

The Selinger government, which faces an election in October 2011, has been hoping to complete the stadium deal as soon as possible to prevent the Progressive Conservatives from using the issue as a political battering ram.

While Katz faces far less political pressure, he also wants the distraction out of his way as city council begins planning its budgets for 2011.

"If nothing happens by the final council meeting, you now have another month and a half before you can do anything," said Katz, referring to the next scheduled council meeting on Jan. 26. "Which means every day for the next six and a half weeks, you guys will be asking me the same questions over and over again."

It's unclear whether enough time remains to build the new stadium at the northwest corner of Chancellor Matheson Road and University Crescent to be completed in 2012 as planned.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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