Ex-Packers' site eyed as Bomber home

ROSS ROMANIUK -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

A new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers could rise at St. Boniface's former meat-processing site if the CFL franchise decides to construct a new facility, the team's president says.

Lyle Bauer says the 171-acre Public Markets -- former home to a Canada Packers plant and other processors -- is under consideration as a potential stadium site as the team eyes a few locations for its home for the decades ahead.

"That is one site that's been bantered around, but there are no definitive plans," Bauer told the Sun, pointing out that a consultant's study has yet to conclude that it's feasible to tackle a new park.

Coun. Franco Magnifico (St. Boniface) says he's eager to examine possible recreation projects for the land, after he and his colleagues decided this week to move a planned public works yard to another location.

Bauer says the expansive tract "that Franco has been pushing" for sports or recreation is large enough, with 171 acres, for the size of stadium the club needs.

"There's lots of room there," Bauer added, citing the relatively cramped Maroons Road lot holding Canad Inns Stadium -- the Bombers' home for the past half-century.

"We're on 25 acres right now."

There's no guarantee, however, that the franchise will propose a new facility once the feasibility report is completed, likely in the next two to three weeks. Bauer and government officials -- who would have to dig into the public purse to ante up tens of millions of dollars to contribute to a new stadium's cost -- have repeatedly stressed that the report might call for an upgrade of the 30,000-seat Polo Park stadium.

Mayor Sam Katz isn't saying which way he's leaning on a stadium or the former Packers property. But he adds that council's move to declare the site as "surplus" presents many possibilities.

OPEN FOR IDEAS

"It's open for all sorts of potential ideas. This may be one of 22," he said of building a stadium. "I'm looking forward to them sharing that feasibility study with me."

The Bombers joined the Doer government and Canad Corp. in December 2004 in floating a potential stadium, convention and hotel project priced at more than $150 million. The announcement kicked off the consultants' studies for a project that was then pitched for a tract adjacent to Red River Exhibition Park along the west Perimeter Highway.

Bauer refused to speculate on the Bombers' chances of making a play for the St. Boniface property.

"The feasibility study will come out and make a determination," he said.

"Do the concept and business plan work? If so, the next step would be where it would go. And where do you get the dough from? Those are the big questions."


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