Sunday, September 14, 2008

Location, Location, Location, Location, Location

They’ve been trying since 2004 to find a place to stick a shovel in the ground on behalf of the Winnipeg blue Bombers, and once again before the first stake goes into the ground the location has changed again.

Gone is the fancy South Point Location with its potential marina and wondrous looking foot bridge to the city.

Instead it’s off to the lands of academe, where the smart people and smart money suggests the new field of football dreams for Manitoba will be located. Today the Bombers announced that attempt number five to build a stadium, will be focusing on the University of Manitoba lands.

With the cost of assembling all the properties of the most recent option in South Douglas (not to mention the prospect of moving folks out of their homes) seemingl out of reach, David Asper and his investors decided that the much discusses site of the summer wasn’t to be considered feasible anymore.

Enter the University of Manitoba, a site which will offer up land and more importantly perhaps pave the way for federal and provincial involvement in the development of the stadium and its accessories.

The Winnipeg Free Press provided a handy reference list (see below) for those of us who have followed the many tries to provide a replacement for the Polo Park football stadium, some more exotic than others, none of which however ever came to fruition.

With option number five now up on the drawing board, one hopes that they finally get a shovel in the ground and provide some hope for the dedicated but no doubt a little cynical Blue Bomber football fans…

University will benefit from stadium partnership
Updated: September 13, 2008 at 04:12 PM CDT

The new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will benefit both the University of Manitoba and the community.

U of M president David Barnard said the stadium to be built on the grounds of the university will increase public access to the main campus.

"It will also allow us to maximize potential synergies between our football, sport, active living and other related programs," he said.

Barnard said the university has offered David Asper's Creswin Properties a long-term lease.
The new stadium will not cost the university a dime to construct.

David Asper said the stadium will have year-round facilities for young people.
Asper said he is hoping construction can start soon.

"To play in 2010, shovels must go in the ground this fall which means we've all got a lot of work to do," he said.

Asper said the stadium proposal also includes having a permanent Blue Bomber Hall of Fame and Exhibition, an alumni-supported heritage retail store, team offices and Bomber retail operation, and a media centre.

Stadium finds home at U of M
Blue Bombers head south as Asper picks campus field
bylineParse('By Bartley Kives')
By: Bartley Kives
Updated: September 13, 2008 at 05:37 PM CDT

After starting at Polo Park and rushing past South Point Douglas, David Asper will announce today that he will build his field of dreams at the University of Manitoba.

Asper's Creswin Properties has signed a letter of intent to build a new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers near the existing home of the U of M Bisons -- a vacant field at the northwest corner of Chancellor Matheson Drive and University Crescent.

Asper wants to build a partly covered bowl at the U of M, using the same design previously proposed for Polo Park and South Point Douglas, according to sources familiar with the negotiations between Creswin and the university.

The deal is not complete, as the provincial and federal governments have yet to sign on. But sources say the U of M has agreed to provide the land, Asper will contribute more than the $40 million he pledged for the Polo Park site and the city is prepared to allow Creswin to develop commercial property at the existing site of Canad Inns Stadium -- and use that development to fund the stadium and franchise.

No price tag has been floated, but earlier estimates for the Creswin stadium design -- which includes a bubble to cover the playing surface during the winter -- have ranged from $125 million to $150 million.

Unlike the Polo Park plan, the U of M stadium would include what sources are describing as "a significant amateur sports component," which would make the proposal more palatable to the federal government.

Conservative cabinet ministers have ruled out funding a facility that would be used solely for CFL games.

A new stadium at the U of M would also provide a new home for the Vanier Cup-champion Bisons, whose younger players are salivating about the prospects about playing at a new building.

"I was speechless when I heard this. I thought it was a joke," said Bison running back Matt Henry, who hopes the stadium could be built in time for his final year of eligibility in 2010.
"It couldn't be better for our university. It's exactly what we need. It's an awesome, perfect location."

While Asper's Polo Park plan died due to disinterest from Ottawa, city hall sources say the South Point Douglas alternative floated by Katz proved impossible due to the difficulty of assembling land in the neighbourhood, the cost of building new roads and infrastructure and proposal's close proximity to the banks of the Red River.

The city still plans to pursue a redevelopment in South Point Douglas, which developers and residents hope to see rezoned as a mixed-use neighbourhood capable of supporting housing.
"We hope we can get that done as soon as possible," said Curtis Street resident Jeff Monk, whose house would have been demolished to make way for a parking lot if the South Point Douglas stadium proposal went ahead.

According to speculation at city hall, the city and provincial plan to build a $327-million bus corridor from downtown to the U of M -- which Katz and Premier Gary Doer announced on Monday -- had to be in place before Asper could pursue plans to build a south Winnipeg stadium.
The mayor and premier have both said they preferred to see a new Winnipeg football stadium grace downtown Winnipeg, but a bus corridor makes a suburban facility more politically palatable.

An announcement by Asper is planned for halftime during the U of M Bisons' homecoming game this afternoon against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
Asper could not be reached for comment Friday. A spokesman for Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz declined to comment, while a spokesman for Doer said the province will wait to see what Asper proposes today.

Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge said he would support a new football stadium at the U of M, noting senior Manitoba Conservative MP Vic Toews has promised to look for $15 million for the project if it includes a significant amateur-sport component.

John Loewen, the Liberal candidate for Winnipeg South, said he, too, likes the idea but said he was not in position to make a specific funding pledge.

Four years, five stadium locations

As David Asper prepares to announce he's settled on a new stadium at the University of Manitoba, here's a look at the locations touted as the new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.


First proposed: November 2004
Location: West of the Perimeter Highway, on the existing Red River Ex grounds.
Proponents: The Winnipeg Football Club, the Red River Exhibition and the Canad Inns hotel chain.
Proposal died: After Manitoba Premier Gary Doer and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz made it clear they had no interest in funding a stadium so far from most of the city's population.


First proposed: January 2007
Location: On the existing site of Canad Inns Stadium.
Proponent: David Asper's Creswin Properties.
Proposal died: When Ottawa made it clear it was not prepared to spend money on a facility that would primarily be used for professional football.


First proposed: March 2007
Location: At the former Canada Packers site in St. Boniface.
Proponent: The Canad Inns hotel chain.
Proposal died: When the Winnipeg Football Club ended a formal selection process by choosing to work with Creswin Properties to develop a new stadium.


First proposed: June 2008
Location: Northeast of downtown, just east of the Disraeli Freeway and south of the CPR Keewatin line.
Proponent: Creswin Properties.
Proposal died: Today, as Asper is slated to announce he's signed a letter of intent to build a stadium at the U of M.


First proposed: Today.
Location: The northwest corner of Chancellor Matheson Drive and University Crescent.
Proponents: Creswin and the U of M.
Proposal died: This is Winnipeg. Let's hope it makes it past Halloween.
- Bartley Kives

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