Mayor, Blue butting heads

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz has openly questioned the Blue Bombers's finances and the validity of its...

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz has openly questioned the Blue Bombers's finances and the validity of its Grey Cup profits. (Sun Media File)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

What has Mayor Sam Katz got against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?

Conversations with the two sides over the last two days suggest these two remain on a collision course.

And while the Bombers appear ready to offer an olive branch, Katz, also owner of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, continues to play hardball.

In an interview with the Sun at city hall yesterday, Katz questioned the football team's finances, the validity of its Grey Cup profits and threatened to take action if a dispute over the club's governance isn't resolved by the end of the month.

Let's start with the months-old dispute over the existence of the government-appointed stakeholders steering committee, which was established in 2000 to oversee the team's restructuring.

The Bombers say the committee disbanded because its work was done. Katz says it still exists.

On Wednesday, Bombers board chairman Ken Hildahl told the Sun the dispute seemed "to have cooled a bit."

"We've got a great partner in the City of Winnipeg," Hildahl said. "And we want to work with them."

Yesterday, Katz was reading from an entirely different page.

"It's absolutely ongoing," the mayor said, adding his position remained "as strong as it ever was. I think it's very sad that some members of the Bombers board took the ridiculous steps they took."

The mayor said he wanted the issue resolved by the end of the month -- or else.

"If the Winnipeg Football Club doesn't do the right thing, then I'll have to do the right thing, and protect the citizen's assets," he said. "I would do everything in my power to force the Bombers to reinstate the stakeholders. That could be just about anything. Whatever's in my power."

Informed of Katz's deadline, Hildahl said it would be a challenge to meet.

"We've been up to our eyeballs in stadium issues," Hildahl said. "But it does need to be resolved."

The reason it needs to be resolved is the Bombers will need the city's help if they want to build a new stadium. They'll need the province, too, of course. But the provincial government isn't being confrontational, like Katz.

Take his comments on the team's Grey Cup profits.

"I believe they made $3.3 million on the Grey Cup?" Katz began. "Two and a half million of that were cheques written by the city and the province, the taxpayers. So that's a fairly significant (part) of the $3.3 million. Which for some unknown reason didn't appear to be mentioned anywhere."

The Bombers dispute Katz's numbers and interpretation.

Club president/CEO Lyle Bauer says the city's grant was for services like police and transit, not the "cheque" Katz referred to, while the provincial amount went directly into stadium upgrades.

It's all semantics, you could argue.

But why does Katz feel the need to keep piling on?

Then there's his assertion the Bombers still have far more debt than they're letting on.

Stunner

Asked about the team's paying off an old city debt of $1.2 million, using the entertainment tax on tickets, Katz pulled out this stunner.

"The Winnipeg Football Club owes the CIBC $3.6 million, which is guaranteed by the City of Winnipeg," he said.

That debt didn't appear anywhere on the football club's statement the other day, because it belongs to Winnipeg Enterprises, which borrowed the money to improve the stadium as far back as the 1999 Pan Am Games.

It's also being paid back -- through Enterprises, which technically still exists -- using the entertainment tax.

"There is no debt like that for the Winnipeg Football Club," Bauer said.

But our mayor tossed it up, anyway, like a wobbly pass.

Quarterbacking like this, the Bombers don't need.

In the huddle or at city hall.


Videos

Photos