ASPER STADIUM LOOKS INTERESTING
Tom Broadbeck, Winnipeg Sun
Sep 14, 2008
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[i]David Asper’s plan to build a new football stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the University of Manitoba became a lot more palatable Saturday when he announced he’s willing to increase his contribution to $100 million from $40 million.
He now wants $35 million from taxpayers instead of $80 million.
The University of Manitoba appears willing to give him the land for free in exchange for access to the stadium. It would double as a new home for the Bisons.
Asper would assume ownership of the team.
Naturally, the devil is always in the details and there are still some unanswered questions:
• Do the Bisons get to use the facility rent-free? And for how long?
• What is meant by a “partially covered? stadium?
• To what extent will university teams and other amateur sports get to use the facility rent-free? Those are important questions because it allows us to assess the public benefit of putting $35 million into a new stadium.
• Will Asper pay property taxes on the stadium?
• Part of the plan is to sell land at the existing Polo Park site to Asper so he can use it to develop commercial enterprises to help subsidize the Bombers. Will taxpayers be selling him that land at fair market value? Will he pay property taxes at that location?[/i]
Long journey for a stadium
Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press
September 14, 2008 at 11:12 AM CDT
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[i]A new fitness facility at the University of Manitoba and a refurbished University Stadium are part of David Asper’s plans to build a new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Fort Garry.
After floating previous stadium proposals for Polo Park and South Point Douglas, the Canwest executive has placed a greater emphasis on amateur sport in an attempt to win over would-be funders on Parliament Hill and in the Manitoba Legislature.
On Saturday afternoon, Asper unveiled a $150-million plan to build a new stadium for both the Bombers and the U of M Bisons, improve the track and field facility at University Stadium and build a new stand-alone fitness centre that will replace the aging “gritty grotto? at the U of M’s Frank Kennedy Centre.
“I have been on the longest journey possible to get from Polo Park to the University of Manitoba campus,? Asper quipped during the halftime break during a football match between the Bisons and the UBC Thunderbirds.
That journey began in January 2006, when Asper asked Ottawa and Broadway for $80 million to build a new football facility at the existing site of Canad Inns Stadium.
But after a surprise detour through South Point Douglas early this summer, he settled on a U of M plan he claims will primarily benefit amateur sport — and only require $35 million from the provincial and federal governments.
Asper said he will spend “up to $100 million? to make the three-pronged, $150-million U of M proposal a reality and use proceeds from the future redevelopment of commercial land at Polo Park to bridge the financial gap.
Asper said he and city have agreed on a process that will eventually see Canad Inns Stadium demolished and the land beneath — one of the most valuable commercial tracts in Winnipeg — sold to his Creswin Properties at fair market value.
The subsequent development, which Asper suggested would be some form of shopping mall, would provide the steady stream or revenue necessary to keep the Winnipeg Football Club afloat in future years.
“I may take a significant haircut as a businessman on what I would otherwise earn at that project (because I’m directing) it toward constructing leisure facilities at the U of M,? Asper said. “I’m a businessman. I like to try to make a buck. But there’s also an altruistic purpose here.?
The Polo Park property would only be developed after a new stadium rises on 10 hectares of land at the northwest corner of University Crescent and Chancellor Matheson Drive.
The slow flow of Polo Park funds would force Asper to resort to bank financing for the U of M project, which will be tricky in the current, risk-averse financial climate. “You don’t need to remind me of the financing issues we’ll be confronting,? he quipped.
Asper has asked Ottawa to contribute $15 million to the project, which is the same figure senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews has said he would try to find for a stadium proposal that included a strong amateur-sport component. But there is no assurance any Conservative cabinet minister will sign on to the plan in the middle of a federal election campaign.
Manitoba, meanwhile, has been asked to provide $20 million. But a spokesman for Premier Gary Doer said the province is not prepared to comment on Asper’s latest proposal until it has a chance to study it.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, however, said he fully supports the notion of selling Asper land at Polo Park and affording a new football stadium the same city tax breaks currently enjoyed by Canad Inns Stadium.
Asper’s new Polo Park development could generate $7 million to $8 million in annual property taxes for the city and province, which is revenue Katz called significant.
As well, the mayor said a U of M stadium could be constructed more easily than a similar building at South Point Douglas, given the absence of land-assembly and engineering issues at the Fort Garry campus.
Asper said the ground at the U of M is better suited for excavation than both the Polo Park and South Point Douglas sites, which means more of the stadium bowl could be situated below the ground.
That would not only make it cheaper to build a new stadium (less height above grade means less steel and other construction materials) but also allow the project to be completed more quickly, he said.
“We’d love to get shovels in the ground by the end of the calendar year, but that’s going to be tight. We’d love to be playing in the new building by 2010,? he said.
David Barnard, the U of M’s new president, said he is excited about the prospects of developing a corner of the Fort Garry campus that has always been reserved for sports.
But the Winnipeg Football Club is in no position to approve the U of M proposal, because it has not been presented with a new business plan or any other details, said CEO Lyle Bauer.
“From a legal standpoint, there is one deal on the table, and that’s the current, existing site,? said Bauer, referring to Polo Park, which the club chose following a formal bid process in 2006.
The big picture finally unfolds
What David Asper’s Creswin Properties has proposed for the University of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Polo Park:
At Chancellor Matheson Drive and University Crescent:
-A 30,000-seat football stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and University of Manitoba Bisons, expandable to 45,000 for special events. The stadium bowl would be eight metres deep, allowing for almost half the rows to be built at or below ground level. Asper also promises better legroom, washrooms, concessions and private suites at the new facility.
-A training centre for the Bombers and Bisons within the stadium.
-A bubble over the playing surface to allow winter use.
-A Blue Bomber Hall of Fame within the stadium.
-A new 700-stall parkade outside the new stadium, plus a “fan tram? to connect the stadium with 7,000 existing parking stalls at the university.
-Shovels could be in the ground late this year, if governments sign on to the plan.
At the existing University Stadium:
-Refurbishment of existing seats, locker rooms and washrooms.
-A second bubble for the playing surface during the winter.
-Track and field facility remains in place.
Elsewhere at the University of Manitoba:
-A new fitness centre to replace aging facility at Frank Kennedy Centre. Will be open to the public as well as university students and staff.
At Polo Park:
-New commercial development at the existing site of Canad Inns Stadium, which would be demolished. Asper says he knows what he wants to build there but is not prepared to let the cat out of the bag.
For the Winnipeg Football Club:
-Asper would own the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but would sign an agreement ensuring the team would remain in the city in perpetuity.
Who pays for it all?
-Asper plans to spend “up to $100 million? toward University of Manitoba components of his plan, which would cost a total of approximately $150 million. Asper plans to use debt-financing to start the project.
-The University of Manitoba will contribute 10 hectares of land.
-The province will be asked to contribute $20 million.
-Ottawa will be asked to contribute $15 million.
-The City of Winnipeg would offer the new facility the same tax exemptions enjoyed by Canad Inns Stadium right now. That means the new U of M stadium will not be subject to property and education taxes.
-The city will also sell Creswin the existing site of Canad Inns Stadium at fair market value, allowing Asper to use proceeds from that development to fund both the stadium and the Winnipeg Football Club.
-Creswin will pay all property and education taxes on the Polo Park land. The city and province are expected to earn approximately $7 million a year from those taxes.
And who has signed on?
-Creswin and the University of Manitoba are on board.
-The Winnipeg Football Club has yet to see a business plan or approve the proposal.
-Mayor Sam Katz is OK with the plan, which faces city council approval.
-Manitoba Premier Gary Doer has previously said he is amenable to funding a a stadium project but has not signed on for $20 million.
-Senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews has previously said he would attempt to secure $15 million for a stadium with a strong amateur-sport component. But Ottawa has not signed on.[/i]