Asper plan no slam dunk

Winnipeg Blue Bombers CEO Lyle Bauer holds the door to the team's offices open for businessman...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers CEO Lyle Bauer holds the door to the team's offices open for businessman David Asper before the media magnate made his pitch on Sunday. (Winnipeg Sun/Brian Donogh)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

And here I thought David Asper's save-the-Bombers proposal might be too good to turn down.

You know, like the time Robert Johnson just couldn't say no to the devil down at the crossroads, selling his soul for a mean guitar hand, as legend has it.

This isn't that kind of deal.

In fact, if I'm chairman of the Bomber board, I'm thanking Asper for his interest and letting him know we'll get back to him -- on our timetable, not his.

For some reason, I expected more from the wanna-be team owner than he came up with the other day.

For starters, I thought the newspaper and TV magnate would be willing to contribute at least half the cost of a new stadium, not the one-third ($40 million of $120 million) he's tabled.

Kind of figured he'd present a few options where the team's ownership is concerned, too.

TURN OUR BACKS

Nope, Asper wants us to turn our backs on 76 years of community ownership, hand over the keys to the franchise -- not to mention the lucrative lease it has for the property it occupies -- and trust him.

Seven years ago, when the Bombers couldn't afford a roll of toilet paper, this deal would have been manna from heaven.

A local businessman with pockets deeper than West Hawk Lake offering to take over the team and contribute towards a stadium?

Where do we sign, the team's board of directors might have said, reaching for the pen with one hand while attempting to keep the franchise teetering on the brink with the other.

Things have changed, though.

Part of a CFL that's healthier than it's been in decades, the Bombers are not only out of debt, they have some $4 million in the bank. Beginning next year, their annual share of league television and sponsorship revenue will approach $2 million.

Today, the franchise probably carries a price tag of between $7 million and $10 million, not including its bank account.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bombers have an agreement with the city that gives the team complete control over the land it occupies -- acres of prime space in the hottest retail area in the city.

Developed, that alone could net several million dollars per year, apart from any profits the Bombers could generate playing in a new, fan-friendly facility.

So if the Bomber board isn't falling all over itself rushing to sign the Asper plan, you know why.

While chairman Ken Hildahl was impressed by Sunday's glitzy presentation, he wasn't still seeing stars 24 hours later.

"This isn't a club that's desperate," Hildahl said. "This isn't a club that's in financial difficulty. In fact, quite the opposite. We're probably in the best financial shape than we have been at any point in our history.

"Once we get beyond the flash of a new stadium, and that's all very appealing ... we're bringing significant value to the proposal."

Which is why the Bombers owe it to us to see if there are entrepreneurs with other ideas.

Partnering with a businessman like Asper for the commercial development makes good sense. But it seems to me there'd be a much better appetite to spend public money on a new facility if the team remained in public hands.

RAISE ITS OWN

There are ways the team could raise its own contribution to a stadium, too. For instance, 20,000 personal seat licenses at, say, $500 each would raise $10 million.

The naming rights to the place would be worth a few million more.

Don't forget: we've invested millions in this team over the years.

Every fan who's ever bought a ticket or made a donation, every businessperson who's ever written off a debt, heck, every taxpayer in this province owns a piece of the Blue Bombers.

Like the Saskatchewan Roughriders or Green Bay Packers, that's what gives this team its soul.

So far, nobody's convinced me to sell it.


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