AS autopsies go, this one is a cinch, a slam dunk that makes a scalpel and coroner completely unneces­sary.

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This article was published 8/4/2010 (4432 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

AS autopsies go, this one is a cinch, a slam dunk that makes a scalpel and coroner completely unneces­sary.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers official­ly announced a loss of $1.2 million on their 2009 operations Wednesday mor­ning and it doesn't take the folks from CSI to connect the dots as to the cause of the grotesque bottom line, the worst since a $1.5-million hit in 1999.

Trauma

The blunt-force trauma the Bomber brand suffered was directly and in­directly the result of the hiring of a coach who delivered a subpar product and left the earth scorched in his wake. And the cleanup of the mess left behind by Mike Kelly cost the organization substantially.

The club's '09 statement of operations reveals a number of critical drops in revenue -- including a smaller divi­dend cheque from the league and the declines in game-day and overall cash directly attributable to a 7-11 squad that missed the playoffs -- but the biggest hit comes from the Bomber board's de­cision to clean house and start fresh for 2010.

The organization paid $981,950 in severance costs to Kelly and his staff, along with making the final payments to previous head coach Doug Berry, as well as other front-office staff includ­ing president and CEO Lyle Bauer, who had a small amount owed for vacation pay.

"Obviously 2009 -- from every per­spective -- was a disaster," said out­going Bomber chairman Ken Hildahl. "On the field the competitiveness just wasn't there, the fan experience just wasn't there and certainly the financial statements speak for themselves -- al­though a lot of the deficit is attributable to the changes that were made in the front office and in football operations.

"It's hindsight now, but everything we saw as an organization going back to (Kelly's) tenure in Winnipeg before was very positive. And after he left Winni­peg there was nothing that jumped out at us that said he couldn't handle the role of head coach.

"But... it was the off-the-field stuff that was disappointing. That's where the brand really took a hit. It really alienated some of the fans and dam­aged our relationship with the media. But, also, had we had stability at the quarterback position that 7-11 record could very easily have been 11-7. That wouldn't have taken away the off-the­field antics, but it would have dulled them considerably.

"You make a mistake and, unfortu­nately, that's the price you pay in a sports organization."

Hildahl said the organization dis­cussed minimizing the severance-pack­age payout by deferring some of it to the 2010 statement -- Kelly's $160,000 buyout and the decision to part ways with director of player personnel John Murphy didn't come until January -- but opted to bite the bullet all at once and then cross their fingers and hope the Joe Mack-Paul LaPolice regime brings a lot more stability and results.

"We've wiped the slate clean," he said. "It's a one-time hit. You hope it never happens but that's why the re­serve fund was so important."

The $1.2-million loss, however, did drain the reserves from $5.1 million to $3.9 million.

Bomber president Jim Bell said the club is budgeting to make a profit in 2010 of "a few hundred thousand dol­lars" as the organization continues to work on broadening its non-football revenue streams by partnering with True North Sports & Entertainment to bring the Bon Jovi and Eagles concerts to Canad Inns Stadium this summer.

As well, the franchise is planning to step up its game-day experience for fans before the move to the new sta­dium in 2012.

"We can turn it around and that's our focus," said Bell.

"When you have a better product on the field you're going to sell more sou­venirs and jerseys and you're going to sell more popcorn and soft drinks in the stands as well."

"Are we back to where we need to be? No, not by a long shot," added Hildahl.

"But we'll see throughout 2010 a lot of attention being paid to the fan and the fan experience and rebuilding that brand and re-establishing the overall credibility of the team."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca