Whole new stadium game

Canad Inns CEO Leo Ledohowski announces his proposal for a domed stadium for the Blue Bombers at...

Canad Inns CEO Leo Ledohowski announces his proposal for a domed stadium for the Blue Bombers at the old Canada Packers site on Monday. (Sun Media/Brian Donogh)

TAMARA KING -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

It's game on when it comes to a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Canad Inns CEO Leo Ledohowski unveiled his $520-million vision for the CFL team's new home in St. Boniface yesterday, which includes $55 million for redeveloping the Bombers' home in Polo Park. That bid will now go up against two other proposals, most notably a $145-million plan from media magnate David Asper for a new complex at the stadium site at Polo Park.

Ledohowski's pitch would see the construction of a $265-million covered stadium -- Canad Inns would "gift" 35 acres of land to the Bombers and the football club would own the stadium -- alongside a new hotel and waterpark at the old Canada Packers site in St. Boniface. The city agreed to sell the property to the hotel chain last week for $1 million.

Asper's concept would end the long-standing structure of community ownership, with a private corporation running the football team.

With the Canad Inns proposal, the Bombers would remain community-owned, Ledohowski said.

"This is a true 21st-century proposal which is a true public-private partnership," Ledohowski told media at a press conference yesterday.

Ledohowski's plan hinges on an $80-million handout from taxpayers, a 50/50 split between the province and Ottawa. It's the same request Asper had earlier made.

"I think if the money doesn't come from the governments, we're going to have a problem pulling this together," Ledohowski said.

Premier Gary Doer's spokesman said it's premature for the province to comment on Ledohowski's pitch.

"We are letting the Bomber board review all proposals first before commenting on any one proposal," said spokesman Jonathan Hildebrand.

Ledohowski said $90 million of financing for the St. Boniface site would come from Maroons Road. Calling it "one of the most valuable pieces of commercial property in Winnipeg," Ledohowski said the site would be converted into the "Blue Bomber Plaza, by Canad Inns," a commercial hub that would be managed by the hotel chain but owned by the football club.

'ROLL-UP TURF'

For the plaza, Ledohowski wants the city to forgive $29 million in property taxes for 15 years -- a request Mayor Sam Katz wasn't available to comment on yesterday.

With the covered complex and what Ledohowski described as "roll-up turf," the St. Boniface facility could be available year-round.

Asper, executive vice-president of CanWest Global Communications Corp. and the team's former chairman, wants to invest $65 million to construct a partially covered complex which would replace the 29,500-seat stadium. It would be developed with retail and commercial space along its Empress Street boundary.

"Both public proposals are very exciting proposals," said Bomber board boss Ken Hildahl. "Both are very credible."

There is a third bid in the running to develop a new stadium for the Bombers. It's a public/private venture from the team and a developer that has yet to be publicly revealed. Based on comments from Hildahl, the proposal is not "site specific" and, like the others, requires taxpayer dollars.

It's unclear when a decision will be made by the football club's board on which bid will be accepted. Hildahl said the stadium subcommittee is aiming to make a presentation to the board next week, and he hopes it will be weeks instead of months before they can make their pick public.


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