Winnipeg and David Asper and stadium

Interesting story today:

Asper seeks new stadium, stake in Blue
Pitch for part of CFL's Bombers could be ready by end of January

Wed Jan 3 2007
By Ed Tait and Bartley Kives

BUSINESS mogul David Asper is close to making a pitch to invest in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as part of a plan to build a new stadium for the 77-year-old Canadian Football League franchise.
The executive vice-president of CanWest Global Communications is putting the finishing touches on a plan that would effectively end three quarters of a century of community ownership of the Winnipeg Football Club. But it would also provide long-term financial stability for the team he only recently helped bring back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Asper, who served as co-chairman of the 2006 Grey Cup festival and chaired the Bombers' board when the team faced financial disaster at the beginning of the decade, hopes to make his pitch to the team's current directors by the end of January.

Asper has already held preliminary discussions with Bomber president and CEO Lyle Bauer and board member Gene Dunn -- but is not prepared to reveal any details until the entire board gets a gander at his proposal.

"I seriously respect the members of the Bomber board who are going to have to consider and make this decision. It's not going to be an easy decision, although I think the proposal has many benefits for the community," Asper said on Tuesday from his home in Winnipeg.

"It's potentially a 50-year decision and you've got to consider what is in the best interest of the club, the community and the fans very carefully."
Although Asper would not reveal the details of his bid, sources close to the deal say it would see the football über-fan assume control of the club and partly fund the construction of a $100-million-plus football stadium and retail complex on the site of the current Canad Inns Stadium.

The existing structure, built in 1953, is considered obsolete because it lacks sufficient space for revenue-generating concessions and is not flexible enough to stage non-football events. The plan to replace it calls for the football team to continue holding games on the existing football field while a new stadium/retail complex is erected and potentially completed by the 2008 season.

The Asper proposal is also said to include benefits for amateur football. It would also depend on a substantial commitment from more than one level of government.

"David and I have met and one thing we both know is we want what's best for the football club for a sustainable future," Bombers president Bauer said Tuesday night from Calgary.

"The club recognizes, and it's in our business plans, that it has to change the way it does business and diversify. We have to have other revenue streams and we said from the beginning if there's going to be a new facility or a significantly refurbished facility, we'd be foolish to think it was all going to come from the public coffers and we'd be looking for private partners.

"The issue of ownership has to be discussed by the board, but I know it will certainly be open to partnership or investment opportunities. That's no secret."

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are currently owned and run by a non-profit organization managed by a board of directors. After facing bankruptcy in 2000, the team was bailed out by local businesses, the province and city, which also handed over the keys to Canad Inns Stadium in 2004.

Late that year, the team floated the idea of building a new hotel-and-stadium complex near the Red River Exhibition grounds. But the plan was met with deafening silence by the city and province, neither of which had any desire to fund a suburban development. On Tuesday, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer declined to comment on the Asper proposal, which would presumably include a large financial commitment from the NDP government.

"We prefer to leave this discussion with the two principal negotiators," said a spokesman for the premier.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz also said it would be premature for him to comment on the Asper proposal before the Winnipeg Football Club has the chance to mull over the idea.

But it's unlikely the City of Winnipeg would contribute much capital toward a new stadium.

In late 2006, after the Asper proposal first surfaced, Katz repeatedly noted the city has already given the football club a 50-year lease on the stadium and the surrounding land, exemptions on property and business taxes and all the revenue from parking, concessions and naming rights.

"We've given them everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything," Katz said on Tuesday.

"At the same time, if an offer is on the table, we're prepared to listen. Any time an individual is prepared to invest (millions) in the city, that's a very positive statement."

Throughout 2006, Katz was embroiled in a dispute with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over a committee struck in 2000 to oversee the football team's financial restructuring.

In February, Bombers president Bauer and board members Dunn and Ken Hildahl felt the committee had served its purpose and dissolved the body. Katz called the move unilateral and illegal and has demanded the committee be reinstated. If the Bomber board accepts the Asper proposal, the dispute between Katz and the football club would effectively become moot.
CanWest Global executive vice-president David Asper -- the former chairman of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and a huge football fan -- wants to invest in the 77-year-old Canadian Football League franchise as part of a plan to build a new stadium/commercial development on the site of what's now Canad Inns Stadium.

Why do the Bombers need a new stadium?

Built 54 years ago, Canad Inns Stadium is obsolete in terms of its flexibility to stage non-football events and generate revenue via concessions, retail and parking. And that doesn't bode well for the long-term viability of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who had a brush with bankruptcy in 2000 and require more revenue streams as player salaries continue to rise.

How much will it cost?

The new stadium will reportedly cost in excess of $100 million. Presumably, Asper would share the tab with the public sector.

What's in it for Asper?

Some form of a return on the retail investment, but more importantly, playing a role in the long-term survival of Winnipeg's CFL franchise.

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Why is the city of Winnipeg so afraid to put something into this new stadium?

Here they have a guy with money willing to buy the team and help pay for part of the stadium, yet the city isn’t intersted?

Like, they expect the Blue Bombers to play in that garbage can of a stadium until it turns to dust?

I mean this is a one time investment that will pay dividends for years to come. Don’t build it, and eventually you’ll pay double or triple in 20 years. Or you lose your football team.

Lets hope something gets done, or plain and simple Winnipeg evenually won’t have a stadium to play int.

Well, they might be afraid, like any city, because of the sometimes precarious situation the CFL has been in in terms of viability at various times over the last few decades. I mean, you have to really look spending millions on a new stadium in a league which almost went belly up not so long ago if it weren't for a loan from the NFL and some US expansion money. Sure, times are better now but still there are uncertainties like Ottawa out now which isn't a huge thing but also not good in a 8-9 team league, and of course all the rhetoric out of certain people in Toronto about the NFL going there possibly and this hurting the CFL. As a taxpayer, I also want to be pretty sure the CFL is going to be around, or some pro league, if my money is going into a new football stadium.

Tough decision here, not just in Winnipeg but in other cities also as stadiums need refurbishing or even replaced. We aren't talking hockey arenas here which have at least 40 games a season and as well with having a roof, can be used for so many other events.

The city of Winnipeg has to address the crumbling infrastructure before anything, otherwise we wont have any roads to get to the new stadium on. The city has also turned over all the revenue streams to the Bombers for the next 50 years, so to say they are not contributing is wrong, what else do you call, all the revenue from parking, concessions, rent and tax free, naming rights, this is millions every year.

But I am pumped about money bags Aspers proposal, they shouldnt have any problem getting provincial funding as Doer spends like a drunkin sailor, the feds on the other hand will be a tough sell.

The CFL has been around for a hundred years. And people have probably been talking about it folding the last 100 years.

But please. The league signed a huge new TV deal which it didn't have 15 years ago when the hallowed NFL came to help.

The CFL is now the number two sports property in Canada. With competition from marginal sports like baseball and the NBA getting weaker and weaker each year.

The CFL also has expansion possibilities in several cities outside of the usual 9. The league is looking to an upswing in its future.

Why people always repeat the same old same old chicken little routine gets me? I mean you gotta look to the future and be agressive. NOt hide in the corner and whine about the past.

I hear you berezin and yes, I don't mean to be too pessimistic really, things are on the upswing for the CFL for sure as you say. Which I think is one reason why Godfrey and his buddies are talking about the NFL since the CFL is a bit of competition for sports fans for his Blue Jays in the summer, he would like nothing better than for the CFL to go belly up to even capture a percentage of people who might watch the Blue Jays if the CFL went under (not me mind you but some).

I think the new TV deal in light of the Ottawa situation is a big positive and could have some investors thinking about the CFL where they might not have before. And the cap also which is good.

On the downside is the condition of some of the stadiums around the league which need some improvments. But I don't think this is a huge factor to deter potential investors or advertisers though to be honest.

....but the fact remains berezin that whether you agree with them or not any one of the issues cited by Earl could be a reason for the City of Winnipeg to balk at getting behind this intiative.....your counterarguments are equally solid, but when the bean-counters guide the process it is usually the negative that takes precedence....not many with access to the public pursestrings want to be seen as visionary...

I don't know. Bottom line. If you want a sports team in your city, you have to pay for it sometimes. Like we did here in London for the Knights.

I mean Winnipeg builds a brand new arena for a minor hockey team, but want nothing to do with the Blue Bombers? They can't just reap the benefits year to year without investing anything back into it.

And Paul Godfrey thought his Arena football team would threaten the CFL. This guy is a leagen in his own mind.

I would have to agree with pigseye here. Before you can jump on the Mayor, we have to keep in mind that they City of Winnipeg has been helping the Bombers for many decades. Just the land that the stadium sits on (not including the stadium) is worth over 9 million dollars. So when you concider the value of money the city has already gave the Blue, its hard for the city to just come up with another chunk of money at a instant. But, lets not write off Katz just yet, he is very pro sports and if the other investors are there, Katz will do his part and have the city invest into a new stadium.
As for the new arena in Winnipeg, people have always misunderstood why Winnipeg has a new arena. The new arena was not build primarally for the Moose. The new arena was build for the sole purpose to revitalize downtown Winnipeg. And since the new arena has been build, we have had 3 times the amount of concerts in Winnipeg.
That is why the city and province were so eager in dumping money into a new arena.
I however beleave that they should dump money into a new stadium. Asper has his wallet out and is prepared to dump money into it as well. It is not often that someone will come and do that.

As far as the plan to rebuild a new stadium at its current location, I am supportive of it. There is no better location anywhere in Winnipeg than the Polo Park area.

One question. If a stadium is built on the current site, where will the Bombers play in between?

They will build durring the off season. Winnipeg is funny that way. Alot of construction happens year round.
In addition, I beleave that they will also build the stadium is sections.

....building in the off season and section-by-section are both construction options that are feasible but not economically viable.....retrofitting the existing stadium using these options would drive the construction cost into the new stadium a lot of cases building from scratch vs. retrofitting is better economics, ala Kingdome vs. Quest Field, Veterans Stadium vs. Lincoln Financial Field, etc.....

Here's something interesting from an interesting site where mayors of Pittsburgh, KC and San Fran discuss stadiums:

"The economics of it are really that arenas make the most sense. They are used 250 times, so they generate a lot of activity. Baseball is next. Football, it’s hard to justify a football stadium on economic development purposes for 14 weeks, 12 games a year." - Mayor Tom Murphy, Pittsburgh

Gotham Gazette
New York City News and Policy

Football stadiums are not a good economic investment,period. Do they create some jobs and pump some more money into the local economy? Sure they do. But to the extent that it makes sense spending hundreds of millions on the project? The answer is no. Its not a project that is going to make great returns for who or whatever puts up the money. That all being said, most CFL cities need new stadiums.

I don't think building or renovating a stadium
once every 50 years or so is asking too much. Its one of those things that every major city needs without getting much in return economically. The Blue Bombers play an important role in the social life of Winnipegers. They have a rich history there and are part of the city's identity. Building a new stadium would ensure long term viability of that tradition. That is something that can't be measured in mere dollars and cents.

How funny. I just read that the city of Kansas City in the USA is building a 276 million publicly funded arena that will be completed by next fall.

And get this. They don't even have a bloody team to play in it.

Compare this to Winnipeg. Where there's handwringing over spending one tenth the amount on a new stadium that is being paid for with private money as well.

And you have to ask how they can do it and we can't? Anybody know? reason is that population of Missouri is roughly 5.5 million....about the same as Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta all put together, maybe even more.....that's a lot of municipal and state tax dollars not to mention what they might get federally from a congressman/senator that is actually working for his state.......

....but I'm a little confused by your research....if by "building an arena and no team in it" you mean the Kemper Arena, well, it's already built.....and Super Mario is pretty hot to move his Penguins there......if it is some other arena, perhaps to replace aging Arrowhead, then the team is already there, the Chiefs....but I think you mean the Sprint Centre which is under construction and due to open in early 2008....the big draw for this stadium is basketball, both at the NCAA level and in wooing the Charlotte NBA team out of NC....

Its a spanking brand new arena with 76 private boxes. The cost is 276 million, and there isn't even a team to play in it.

And sure the population may be bigger then Manitoba, but I mean in Quebec and Ontario which have much larger populations the same rule applies.

I guess we are more butter than guns.

....'build it and they will come' mentality I guess.....

Yes you are correct, the porblem is the govermnets of today do not look at the economic benefit for having sports teams in their area. You would think the city and the provincial governments would have learned after losing the Jets! But I guess not!

This is very slightly off topic but somewhat related. Would Asper actually be paying for the Bombers or just putting up money for a stadium and recieving control of the Bombers in return? If he is actually paying someone, how much are the Bombers worth as a franchise ($5 Million???)? And if money actually does change hands, who would receive it on behalf of the community (present owners)?