Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/4/2009 (4147 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OK, all you anti-football-stadium critics out there -- and you know who you are -- bring it on.
Let's hear about how that con artist David Asper is getting some sweetheart deal, what with ONLY putting $100 million of capital into the new home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and University of Manitoba Bisons.
Tell us how the project shouldn't be subsidized with an infusion of $35 million from the province and the feds, how such a well-heeled, silver-spooned businessman need not require tax dollars to help fund something so trivial and unnecessary as a facility to play football games.
Remind us about all the inherent and future catastrophes -- from lack of parking, hotel availability and, of course, losing the Bombers altogether -- that will certainly come to pass should anyone (gasp!) dare to bring the last of this city's professional sports franchises into the 21st century.
I can hear the whining, self-righteous do-nothing opponents to Asper's infrastructural baby already. Been hearing them for the last 26 months, in fact, since Izzy's kid first had the audacity to propose building a stadium and assume control of the storied CFL club in February of 2007.
Personally, I'd like to think the aforementioned constituency is the vocal minority; the same group of visionaries who railed against the ballpark (gawd, what about the green space!!) and the hockey arena (gawd, what about the Eaton's building!!).
Of course, you don't hear much bitching about Canwest Park these days. The MTS Centre? Arguably one of the best community investments of our generation.
Yet that still didn't silence the dissenters. They just changed their tune on the ballpark and arena, which they erroneously predicted would lack adequate parking space and --- in one fear-mongering theory published in the op-ed section of this newspaper -- warned of the safety dangers a downtown arena would present to women. That's right: The downtown arena would KILL INNOCENT CITIZENS!
Instead of citing countless and ever-evolving reasons why the projects would fail, they eventually rewrote history and instead came to chasten the use of public dollars on the new arena and ballpark for -- get this -- making too much money.
Told you they didn't need all that government cash, they crowed. Really? That's a pretty low-risk position: Bitch that no new facilities are needed in the first place for reasons that have nothing to do with long-term success, then bitch if the projects turn out to be even better than anyone outside of the ball carriers envisioned.
But that gives you an inkling of the obstacles facing any community-minded -- and yes, capitalist-minded -- entrepreneurs naive enough to run through the public gauntlet with any daft notions of a) providing Winnipeg residents with attractive, fan-friendly sports facilities while b) making a profit if their financial risk of millions of dollars is ultimately rewarded.
Fortunately, that's a moot point now with Asper's stadium proposal. The political ducks, including all three levels of government, the Bombers and the U of M, are all in a row as of Thursday morning. All that's left to trigger the green light is the financial component of the deal, the commercial venture at Polo Park. And, frankly, that's Asper's problem.
Don't get me wrong: This deal needed due diligence on the part of government to ensure that the taxpayers' financial commitment was worthy. That's more than fair.
(Although, come to think of it, it seemed just a titch galling that Manitoba MP and federal Treasury Board President Vic Toews, who had the nerve to give Manitobans a choice between a new football stadium and clean drinking water, would have the stones to show up to Thursday's press conference and spout, "I'm very pleased to be here to share this terrific news." Thanks, Vic. So I guess it's bottled water for everybody now, right?)
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yes, due diligence.
The same goes for the Bombers, represented by club chairman Ken Hildahl, who naturally needed to satisfy themselves, and by extension, the community, that every contingency was put in writing to ensure the team's future in Winnipeg would not be threatened with an admittedly monumental change to private ownership.
After all, the Bombers aren't just a part of the community, the community is a part of the Bombers. Even a whiff that Asper's takeover might somehow put the long-term future of the team in Winnipeg in doubt would be an absolute deal-breaker.
We'll have to reasonably trust that all parties involved, which undoubtedly included a football roster of solicitors, have legal assurances that there will be a Winnipeg Blue Bombers for generations to come. As Asper wryly noted: "This (deal) has been lawyered to the point where lawyers might own the naming rights (to the stadium)."
So while not completed to the point of putting in the first shovel, it now appears that barring some unforeseen snag of significant proportion, Winnipeggers will be sitting in a new football stadium by the summer of 2011.
Just as they sat in a new ballpark in May 1999.
Just as they sat in a new arena in November 2004.
So to all you critics-for-life out there, better amp up the volume (again).
Because your time is running out. Fast.
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.
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