Renos more feasible

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

The next time this city hosts a Grey Cup, expect it to be in a renovated stadium -- not a brand new one.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers brass has come to the realization a major retrofit of their existing, 53-year-old home is more feasible than the construction of a new facility.

"I don't see the appetite out there for the federal and provincial governments to put a bunch of money into a new stadium," Bomber board chairman Ken Hildahl told the Sun yesterday. "(A renovation) may be the way we have to go."

That may disappoint sports fans with pie-in-the-sky visions of a new, covered stadium.

But, as Hildahl points out, there are advantages to improving the current one, which he says is structurally sound.

One, it's in an ideal, and valuable, location next to Polo Park. And two, the cost would be tens of millions of dollars less.

A new indoor stadium could easily cost $200 million. An open-air facility could run up to $100 million. Renovating the existing one would probably cost less than half that.

The value of the area has the Bombers looking at all kinds of possible commercial additions to the site. Hildahl even raised the possibility of some residential development.

The success of the Grey Cup, which generated some $2.5 million in profits, has put the team in a whole, new position.

"We're a credible partner now, in any venture," Hildahl said. "We're past the days of being a charity."

The stadium plan is one of three highly contentious issues that will move from the back-burner to the front, now that the Grey Cup has passed.

There's the proposal by David Asper that would alter the Bombers' community-owned structure to some form of private-public partnership.

And there's the showdown with Mayor Sam Katz over the city's stake in the team.

Which issue is top priority?

"All of them," Hildahl said. "And they're all interconnected."

You get the feeling that even though this franchise is out of debt for the first time in years, this will be one of the most critical off-seasons in the team's 76-year history.

And now a quick look back at Grey Cup week....

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"You can't keep fighters out. As simple as that." -- former Bomber coach Dave Ritchie, defensive coordinator of the B.C. Lions, on his comeback from a firing and heart surgery two years ago.

"Maybe some decency will wear off on his soul if he sits in my spot." -- Bomber kicker Troy Westwood, on the prospect of Montreal rival Ed Philion taking his place in the Winnipeg locker-room.

"I've gone out, I've stayed home. I've drank, I've not drank. I've gone out with my family, I've not gone out with them. I've tried everything." -- Philion on how he's tried to change his lousy luck in Grey Cup games.

"We were walking around like we had sticks up our butts." -- Lions linebacker Carl Kidd on how uptight the Lions were for the '04 Grey Cup.

"The people that know me would probably cheer for me. Those that don't know me, I'm sorry I don't know 'em." -- Ritchie, when asked which team the fans might cheer for.

"I'm the guy who broke the Cup." Lions O-lineman Kelly Bates.

STORYLINE OF THE WEEK

Lions kicker Paul McCallum's attempt to redeem himself for what happened two years ago, when he missed an easy field goal for Saskatchewan, then had his house pelted with eggs and a load of manure dumped next to it.

CHARACTER OF THE WEEK

Kidd was his usual quote-a-minute self, from the time he got into the armoured personnel carrier at the airport and proclaimed himself ready to join the Canadian Armed Forces.

NON-PARTICIPANT OF WEEK

Former Montreal Alouettes coach Don Matthews' presence was everywhere. The Als players kept saying it was still his team, as did his replacement, general manager Jim Popp. And a good portion of the coaches news conference was spent dealing with The Don, who remains larger than life, even in absentia.

SENTIMENTAL FAVOURITE

Ritchie, who obviously had the fans on his side from Day 1. Asked if his presence was the reason for the Lions being the crowd favourite, Ritchie was humbled.

"I don't know about that," he said. "If it was, thank 'em."

UNSUNG HERO

Going into the season, heck, going into the game, plenty of people still didn't know the name Javier Glatt. After the Lions linebacker forced the game-clinching fumble at the B.C. goal line, they do now. A star is born.


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