David Asper's soft sell

David Asper speaks at a public meeting to unveil plans for a proposed stadium home for the Blue...

David Asper speaks at a public meeting to unveil plans for a proposed stadium home for the Blue Bombers. (Sun Media/Jason Halstead)

JOYANNE PURSAGA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

A few hundred Winnipeggers were able to glimpse and "feel" parts of a new stadium that will remain a vision until at least 2009.

About 300 people came to MTS Centre and literally put their "bums in seats" planned to fill David Asper's new football stadium and retail complex.

The comfort test was part of a detailed presentation designed to show fans how the millionaire businessman's $145-million dream could become reality.

While funding is not final, Asper emphasized his desire to push the project forward quickly, with the first phase of construction set to begin in the spring of 2008 and a target completion date of summer 2009.

"The clock is ticking and I say 'let's get on with it' and get it done today," he said at a free stadium preview last night.

Asper is seeking $80 million from the government, with $40 million each from provincial and federal coffers, but has final approval from neither.

He predicts the site will generate enough PST and GST to compensate the federal government within six years and the province within five.

"Our payback will happen in a timely fashion," said Asper. "The financial risk going forward is on my shoulders."

Asper pledged to invest $40 million for the stadium plus another $25 million for retail/ commercial dev elopment of the land around it.

The retail ventures are meant to sustain the stadium and "cross-subsidize" it when needed, he said.

"The point of the retail complex is to provide the team with a year-round source of income and the team will never have to go back to the taxpayer again," said Asper.

The design also promises to address common fan complaints.

The old Polo Park stadium was built in 1953. For years, Winnipeggers have complained of poor seating and lengthy waits for washrooms and concessions.

Main new features of the facility include the following:

* A bowl-style field to add shelter and a 360-degree view.

* Overhead canopies to ensure full "protection from the elements" for 80% of all seats.

* 35,000 seats with individual cup holders.

* Six extra inches of leg room (beyond current seating.)

* A total 289 women's bathroom stalls plus six family rooms.

* A two-level, 217,000-square-foot shopping complex to ensure off-field revenue for the team.

Fans seemed cozy in enhanced trial seats, as they showed up to test stretch their legs and lounge yesterday.

And while a few expressed concern about the loss of community ownership for the team, most said they approve of the Asper plan enough to support its demand for both private ownership and government cash.

"They can find the money. The Bombers deserve it, the fans deserve it, the city deserves it," said Brad Enders. "The stadium (now) is so old, it takes half-an-hour to go to the bathroom and another half-hour just to get a hot chocolate."

"If it's the only way to get a stadium, I'm for it," said Ann Edwards.


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