New digs for Blue?

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

It's the rumour that won't go away: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, in conjunction with the Red River Exhibition, are looking into the feasibility of building a new stadium.

Nobody from the football team will confirm it. And all you'll get from Red River Ex boss Paul Robson is, "I won't say anything. You'll have to talk to Lyle."

That would be Bombers president/CEO Lyle Bauer, who wasn't returning The Sun's calls yesterday.

But we do know this: Bauer met with Robson and Manitoba Jockey Club president Harvey Warner at Assiniboia Downs a couple weeks back. We can only presume he wasn't looking for tips on the horses.

Now, this doesn't come completely out of the blue.

It was nearly a year ago Bauer spoke to The Sun about the community-owned club's future -- a future that included either a major renovation to Winnipeg Stadium or a new facility altogether.

"There's a very nice ball park in CanWest Global, and there's going to be a very nice arena," Bauer said at the time.

"If everybody's moving up into the high-rent district ... we'd probably like to see a few more amenities."

Some 11 months later, it seems the Bombers mean business.

Now that I've been inside the new downtown arena, I can see why.

Comfortable seats, modern washrooms and concessions, revenue-generating luxury suites -- all amenities that local baseball and hockey fans can enjoy. But not football fans.

I guarantee there will be people attending a Moose game this winter who'll have a completely different outlook the next time they visit the Stadium for a Bombers game.

After experiencing the Rink at Eatons, sitting in that cramped Stadium seat, or waiting in a long line to get into that dilapidated washroom or to order the same old Stadium food, will very quickly get old.

Let's face it. If the Winnipeg Arena was worn out, what does that make the Stadium?

WORST FACILITY IN CFL

Probably the worst football facility in the CFL, that's what.

Sure, the Bombers could try to do what new owner Bob Young did with Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton: spend a million or two to refurbish the place, and squeeze another 10 years out of it.

But that would just be postponing the inevitable, while continuing to turn off fans who'll be getting more and more used to the comforts of the other two pro sports venues in town.

Building a new stadium on land owned by the Ex, next to the Downs, means plenty of parking and good access. Yes, it's a little "out there," but it's only 10 games a year, not 40. And the Polo Park area is getting more and more congested, in case you haven't noticed.

I know what you're thinking: how much would this thing cost, and who'd pay for it?

Well, the Toronto Argonauts are about to build a 25,000-seat facility at a projected cost of $70 million, shared by the feds ($27 million) the province of Ontario ($8 million) and York University ($15 million).

The Bombers, you'd think, would want about 30,000 seats. And plenty of help from the taxpayer.

Their other partner, presumably, would be the Ex, another non-profit agency. Together, they'd use the facility for concerts, trade shows, you name it.

And football fans, the most rabid in this town, would join their baseball and hockey cousins in the 21st century.

The whole thing makes sense, don't you think?


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