Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/5/2015 (1561 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Money is the lifeblood of any pro sports organization and fans of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers should be concerned about the state of their stadium, how it's going to get fixed and who is going to pay for it.
They should also be worried about the folks in charge, some of whom have been intimately involved in the mess known as Investors Group Field.
For the football fan, this is pretty simple. The stadium needs to be repaired and transformed into a fully functioning facility capable of churning out the level of revenue needed to compete in the CFL.
The cost of the repairs can't fall on the Bombers. They're already over-burdened with debt. They can't take on another multi-million dollar expenditure.
If the Blue Bombers have to trim operating costs due to their stadium issues, expect the Grey Cup drought around here to continue.
All the good work GM Kyle Walters has done to date has come with a cost. Bulked up scouting budgets, a commitment to spend to the salary cap and competing for key free agents such as Stanley Bryant and Dominic Picard isn't cheap.
Walters has gone to CEO Wade Miller on a number of occasions and asked for more money to spend on football operations. Miller has found a way to deliver the funds and the Bombers appear to be on the road back to respectability.
So what needs to happen, from a football perspective, is pretty clear. And it must be Miller's top priority. Get the stadium fixed at no cost to the club so it can move forward and continue on its plan to thrive both financially and competively.
Right now the stadium is a mess and the repair bills will likely exceed $30 million. The Bombers, through the stadium management consortium known as Triple B Stadium representing the football team, the city, the province and the University of Manitoba, have filed suit against contractor Stuart Olson and architect Ray Wan.
This is going to be an uphill battle. Stuart Olson has already filed a statement of defence saying Triple B was informed of the deficiencies in the architectural drawings but ordered construction to plow ahead.
According to Stuart Olson's statement of defence, Triple B and the province "made many decisions with respect to the construction and design of the field without first adequately taking the time to consider many details."
Stuart Olson isn't an amateur outfit. They'll have binders full of change orders made by the client. They'll have documented every change. It's routine construction practice.
There should also be no surprise the architect's renderings contained deficiencies.
Projects of this magnitude always contain surprises.
How they are handled becomes the hallmark of a project and, in this case, the early returns aren't favourable.
Miller is in a bit of a pickle. He should be demanding change and holding Triple B responsible. His responsibility should be to the Bombers and their fans. Reality, however, is much different. Three of his bosses, board members David Asper, Bill Watchorn and Ossama AbouZeid, were heavily involved with the design, financing and construction of the stadium.
Asper championed the new stadium and hired Wan to design it. When his complicated financing package didn't come to fruition, Watchorn structured a deal with the province. Once the project was ready to go, AbouZeid was appointed to oversee the construction work on behalf of Triple B.
Having these three even remotely involved in a suit against the contractor and architect is both ironic and potentially problematic. Anyone involved in the building of the stadium must now be extricated from the process.
Miller inherited the stadium and its issues. Now he must navigate the political waters of his own board and the provincial government to reach a resolution. He's in tough.
The province and the Bombers board drove the bus on this project. Stuart Olson says there were competing agendas surrounding the execution of the project's construction.
"The plaintiff and its stakeholder, the Province of Manitoba, made the key decisions and provided approvals throughout the construction of the project, regarding the timelines, budget, location and design of the project," reads the statement of defence.
"The budget established for the project was lower than that for most comparable projects. The timeline established for the project was shorter than that applied to most comparable projects. These decisions were made in accordance with the political and financial requirements of the plaintiff's stakeholder, the Province of Manitoba."
Premier Selinger and his government paid for the stadium and played a role in overseeing the construction as did key members of the Bombers board. Mistakes were made as the suing and countersuing attest.
Expensive errors which must now be rectified. Having this file handled properly going forward is of prime interest to the football fans of this province.
Miller may have to drive a hard deal. To assess blame and throw a few political punches. Can he do this with Asper and Watchorn, so clearly tied to Selinger on this project, sitting at the table to which he answers?
Asper and Watchorn have played important roles for the Bombers over the last 20 years. Clearly, they care deeply for the organization. But it is time for them to step aside.
Miller's instincts can't be burdened out of loyalty to men who played a role in hiring him and whom he's worked alongside. He must be free to push for what's best for the Bombers.
Credit where credit is due. Asper's vision got this project started and Watchorn crafted the deal that got it built.
The execution, however, was clearly flawed. Blame is going to be assessed. Egos will be bruised. Political reputations will take a hit.
The Bombers can't suffer as a result of a solution. That's Miller's job now — to safeguard his organization and the funds needed to put a winning team on the field.
Can he do this with Asper, Watchorn and AbouZeid looking over his shoulder? Unlikely. Their legacies are too entwined with the problem to be part of the solution.
This can't be about a few individuals. Too much is at stake for the football team.
When Miller took this job he spoke about the importance of winning for the community and the Bombers. He needs a win on the stadium file. It's critical. Like an overtime touchdown.
If a player isn't helping the team, he's hurting it. Those players get cut.
Updated on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 6:52 AM CDT: Updated with print version.