Let's dig, says Asper

PAUL TURENNE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

With a few strokes of a backhoe, construction officially began on Winnipeg's new football stadium Thursday.

Dignitaries from the worlds of football, politics and business stood in an open field at the University of Manitoba near what will one day be the middle of a new 33,000-seat stadium.

In front of a crowd of a few hundred people, they kicked off a two-year construction project that will become the new home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and University of Manitoba Bisons.

"Leonardo da Vinci once said in the Middle Ages: 'I've been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough, we must do.' So let's dig," said Creswin Properties chairman David Asper, who is spearheading the stadium development.

The quote was representative of a groundbreaking that was sunny and celebratory. But despite that tone, not everyone is happy about it.

Two separate appeals -- one supported by a petition with 104 signatures -- were filed Tuesday contesting the city's April 28 approval of a zoning variance and conditional use order that will allow the stadium to be built on the site.

Both appeals were filed by residents of nearby Thatcher Drive, one of whom is a high-ranking professor at the university.

"You can't pre-judge it but in my experience, if the stadium is already a permitted use on the site, I don't think it will cause problems. But we have to allow the process to determine that," said St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel.

Both applications argue residents were not given adequate notice of last month's meeting of the city's board of adjustment, which approved a conditional use order for the stadium pending traffic impact, transportation and site access studies.

The same body approved a zoning variance that will allow the stadium's 215-foot arches to soar above the usual 100-foot limit for buildings in that zoning category.

One of the appeal applications also claimed residents' concerns about noise, traffic and parking were not adequately addressed.

The appeals are expected to be heard next month.

Asper said he doesn't expect the appeals to affect construction timelines, as site preparation work can still take place while they work their way through city hall. Excavation work should begin in June and the physical structure should start taking shape later this summer, he said.


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