Bombers applaud stadium plan

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:00 PM ET

Paul LaPolice listened to his potential future boss outline the latest plans for a new stadium, and quickly realized what he’ll have to do to stick around long enough to see it happen.

“You have to win football games for that to happen,” the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers said. “That’s, every day, what we come to work for, to build a team.”

If LaPolice survives Years 1 and 2, Year 3 of his deal is expected to take place in a new, $115-million facility at the University of Manitoba, possibly under the guidance of private owner David Asper.

“I’m excited for the fans, the province, the Bomber organization and the Bisons,” LaPolice said. “To have a new facility for everyone is a tremendous opportunity.”

It might even help attract free agents.

“If Player A gets offers from two different organizations that are equal, he’s going to look at it and say, ‘There’s a commitment to football in this organization, or there’s a commitment from this province, from the people, to have a state-of-the-art facility.’ That’ll sway people to come here,” LaPolice said. “You spend a lot of time in these facilities. It’s a great atmosphere for them.”

For a player like Winnipegger Don Oramasionwu, a second-year Bomber D-lineman, the new stadium provides a double thrill: a glitzy new facility for his home town, and for his alma mater.

The stadium will seat 33,000, expandable to at least 40,000, and is supposed to include dedicated training facilities for the Bombers and Bisons.

“Wow,” Oramasionwu said. “We’re long overdue for a new stadium. It’s also really good it brings the Bisons closer together to the Bombers. To have a pro team closer ... the Bisons can just see how the Bombers go about doing things, from practice to working out, everything.”

Asper said the new stadium will include overhead weather protection for 80% of fans, top quality concessions, covered concourses with views of the field and large video screens at both ends of the field.

“Getting something new, it’ll obviously be the best one in the league,” Oramasionwu said.

“It’s going to open a lot of eyes. You’re going to get more fans coming because it’s new, to check it out.”

But it’s the behind-the-scenes detail that will appeal most to the players.

“Big-time,” Oramasionwu said. “Obviously we’re going to get nicer change rooms, bigger change rooms. The weight room is a big thing. The one we have now is pretty small, so I’m hoping they’re going to put in something a lot bigger.”

The project includes $22.5 million for upgrades to the U of M fitness centre, meaning the end of a dark, dreary basement track and weight area known as the Gritty Grotto.

“The last five years that was my gym,” Oramasionwu said, chuckling. “It grows on you, though.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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