New stadium? We're alone

TOM BRODBECK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

If you think the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football club needs to replace its "aging" stadium to keep up with newer ones in other Canadian Football League cities, think again.

Proponents of knocking down Canad Inns Stadium on Maroons Road and replacing it with a $120-million sports complex -- largely with tax dollars -- argue the current stadium, at age 54, is near the end of its lifespan.

But if you look at CFL stadiums across Canada, you'll see most of them are just as old -- or older -- than Winnipeg's facility.

Despite that, Winnipeg is the only CFL city considering building a new football stadium from scratch, even though there is no evidence Canad Inns stadium is falling apart.

A review of CFL stadiums shows that five out of eight football facilities are close to 50-years-old or older. And not one of those cities is considering building a new stadium, including cities much larger and wealthier than Winnipeg.

The Montreal Alouettes, for example, play at a McGill University stadium -- Percival Molson Stadium -- that holds only 20,202 fans and dates back to 1914. They're only talking about expanding the stadium to 25,000 seats, not building a new facility.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats play in a stadium that first opened 77 years ago in 1930.

Ivor Wynne Stadium has undergone a number of renovations and expansions over the years in Hamilton -- a city about the same size as Winnipeg -- but there's no talk of a new facility there.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders play in a stadium first constructed in the 1920s which was built up throughout the 1930s and 1940s. And there are no new stadium plans there, either.

Even oil-rich Calgary, a booming city that could easily afford a new facility to replace McMahon Stadium -- a building that's almost as old as Winnipeg's -- isn't talking about a new facility.

The Edmonton Eskimos have a relatively newer stadium to play in -- Commonwealth Stadium, built in 1978. But like Winnipeg's CanWest Global Park, home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, it was built specifically for an international sporting event.

The only two other CFL teams playing in more modern facilities are the B.C. Lions, who play in BC Place -- a domed, multi-use facility used for a wide range of sporting, entertainment and trade show events -- and the Toronto Argonauts, who play at Rogers Centre, another multi-use facility that happens to be home to a Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays.

In fact, the Argos are thinking of leaving Rogers Centre for a smaller venue -- BMO Field, which houses the city's Major League Soccer team, Toronto FC.

The question is, has all the hype surrounding a new football stadium for Winnipeg -- one that would have limited use outside of 10 Bomber home games -- blinded us to the fact that most other CFL stadiums are just as old or older?

Have we lost sight of the fact that we're the only CFL city clamouring for a new facility, one that would cost taxpayers a staggering $80 million for what would be a privately run stadium for a privately owned team?

I think we have.

Maybe it's time we gave our heads a shake.

BC Lions

BC PLACE

Capacity: 60,000

Built in 1983 for $126 million, BC Place was the first covered stadium in Canada. The air-supported domed facility has a seating capacity of over 60,000 and hosts a wide variety of events -- about 200 a year -- including CFL football, concerts, amateur sports and trade shows.

BC Place is owned by the provincial government through the BC Pavilion Corporation, a Crown Corporation of the Province of British Columbia.

Edmonton Eskimos

COMMONWEALTH STADIUM

Capacity: 60,081

Built in 1978 for the Commonwealth Games, this stadium is one of the newer and larger facilities in the CFL.

It was constructed for $21 million and underwent a $22 million renovation in 2001 for the World Championships in Athletics.

The renovations included structural and cosmetic upgrades, new concessions and washroom facilities and a $6.2 million Sony JumboTron video scoreboard.

Commonwealth Stadium has the only natural grass field in the CFL.

Calgary Stampeders

MCMAHON STADIUM

Capacity: 38,000

McMahon Stadium was built in 1960 for $1 million on 40 acres of land leased from the City of Calgary.

The cost of the stadium, which is owned by the University of Calgary, was financed by issuing bonds to the public.

The stadium is operated by the McMahon Stadium Society, a non-profit organization, and has undergone $30 million worth of renovations between 1960 and 1999.

While the Stampeders are one of the stadium's chief tenants, the facility operates as a multi-purpose community facility, hosting 500-600 bookings a year, mostly amateur sports.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

MOSAIC STADIUM

Capacity: 28,800

Originally called Park de Young, Mosaic Stadium has been home to the Roughriders since the 1920s in one form or another, including when it was a simple rugby field.

Seating capacity was added to the field in the late 1920s and again in 1936.

In 1947, the facility was renamed Taylor Field. And in 1948 a 4,500-seat grandstand was built on the west side of the field.

Taylor field underwent major renovations in the 1970s, including the construction of a second level on the west-side grandstand, new offices and dressing room facilities.

There were more upgrades in the 1980s and 1990s, including improved seating and other enhancements.

The stadium was renamed the Mosaic Stadium in 2006.

Toronto Argonauts

ROGERS CENTRE

Capacity: 46,374

Rogers Centre, formerly known as the SkyDome, was built in 1989 for over $600 million, way over its projected construction cost of $240 million.

It's home to the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Argonauts and hosts a wide variety of sporting events, concerts and trade shows.

It has a retractable roof that can open or close in 20 minutes.

The SkyDome has had a troubled financial past, from its over-budget construction to bankruptcy in 1998. The Toronto Blue Jays bought the SkyDome in 2004 and it was renamed the Rogers Centre.

The Argonauts are looking into the possibility of moving to Toronto's BMO Field, home to Toronto's Major League Soccer team.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats

IVOR WYNNE

Capacity: 29,600

Originally called The Civic Stadium, Ivor Wynne Stadium first opened in 1930 with about 2,000 seats. The stadium was originally built to host the British Empire Games.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats became the permanent tenants of the Civic Stadium in 1950.

About 15,000 seats were added to the stadium in 1959 and it was renamed Ivor Wynne Stadium in 1970.

The stadium was further upgraded for the 1972 Grey Cup in Hamilton, bringing seating capacity to about 30,000.

More upgrades were made in the 1980s and 1990s, including new turf, sky boxes and structural upgrades.

Montreal Alouettes

PERCIVAL MOLSON STADIUM

Capacity: 20,202

First built in 1915 as part of McGill University, Percival Molson Stadium was originally home to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association football team.

The stadium was expanded in the 1930s and by the 1960s capacity was increased to 19,500 seats.

The Montreal Alouettes played at Molson Stadium from 1947 to 1967, before moving to the Autostad in 1968 and eventually the Olympic Stadium.

The Als came back to Molson Stadium in 1998. Seating capacity was increased to 20,202 by the 2003 season.

The Alouettes and McGill University began a two-phase, comprehensive renovation project for the stadium in 2003 that would result in a planned seating capacity of 25,000.


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