Rhapsody for Bombers

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 AM ET

The sod will be turned on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' new football stadium on May 20.

Incoming Winnipeg Football Club chairman Bill Watchorn made the announcement at Wednesday night's annual fan forum at the Winnipeg Sun Centre.

"The day after May 20 the construction starts, and there's no delay," Watchorn said. "It's right into the ground, and the target of March 1, 2012, is a real target and we're on our way."

Watchorn praised the man behind the project, David Asper, and said critics should not focus on the $90-million loan that the province has provided to get the project started.

"David is putting $10 million into the new stadium, and that's kind of significant to me," Watchorn said. "That's real money.

"But everybody focuses on the loan from the provincial government and not on the equity commitment."

In the only other real news of the night, Watchorn announced the changes to the Bomber board of directors. Bruce Robinson, Paul Robson, Joe Poplawski and outgoing chairman Ken Hildahl are leaving, while the former kicking tandem of Trevor Kennerd and Bob Cameron are joining the group of representatives.

The third newcomer to the board is local businessman Ossama AbouZeid.

Other than that, the 300 or so diehard Bomber fans heard primarily about the team's plan to really celebrate the franchise's 80th season.

There were no outrageous comments like last year, when former head coach Mike Kelly referred to Saskatchewan as the "crotch of Canada," resulting in a formal apology from the Bombers a few days later.

The closest new boss Paul LaPolice came to getting in trouble was when he introduced his coaching staff to the audience. He mentioned that linebackers coach Casey Creehan was his only assistant not in attendance.

The reason why, LaPolice said, was because Creehan was on his way to Winnipeg with his fiancee and his wife. As the murmurs in the crowd eventually grew into laughter, LaPolice realized his mistake and corrected himself. Creehan was en route to Winnipeg with his fiancee only.

And that was probably the toughest moment of LaPolice's night, as the fans applauded him loudly when he was introduced at the start of the proceedings. He wasn't grilled too hard about how he plans to end Winnipeg's 19-year Grey Cup drought, but he reiterated that his team will be prepared to play.

The toughest question of the night came from perhaps the youngest member of the audience, as a young man asked LaPolice what he was going to do to ensure the Bombers don't take any too-many-men penalties this season.

Zing!

Fans asked about the team's pursuit of free-agent quarterback Buck Pierce (GM Joe Mack danced around the issue nicely) and there were a couple of harmless questions about player personnel, but one of the more interesting queries was about how the team doesn't do much to celebrate its history.

Bombers director of marketing Jerry Maslowsky noted there will finally be banners for each of Winnipeg's Grey Cup wins put up at Canad Inns Stadium this season. Also, Bomber alumni will be on hand to greet fans as they make their way into stadium for every home game.

The club also showed a vignette on Wednesday night featuring former Bomber great Nick Miller, who spoke of how much the fans meant to the team when he played. Miller's and other vignettes will be featured on the team's website.

Maslowsky also vowed that the game-day experience in 2010 will be much improved.

"The party will take place the minute you step on the lot," he said.


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