Big Blue cash cow

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

WINNIPEG - It's about this Great Stadium Debate, and specifically what my colleague Tom Brodbeck is spouting over in the serious pages of this publication.

Terrible Tommy has never met a taxpayer-funded idea he liked, except helicopters, and he's more than welcome to his opinion.

But predicting the future, as he does in today's column, well, that's just priceless.

This guy's wasting his talents. Somebody take him to the track, or to Vegas, where he wouldn't need to scoop up casino chips and flee like a bandit. He'd simply tell you where the marble is going to land, what card is going to come from the dealer's hand.

Today our resident hell-raiser is not only predicting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are going to ask for bailouts down the road, but also what the team chairman of the day is going to say.

It's his latest attempt to shoot holes in the stadium deal, and it's really quite an entertaining read.

Brodbeck is convinced the community-owned team won't be able to keep up annual payments to the province of what he says will be $4-6 million. Problem is, we don't even know the terms under which the Bombers are repaying their $85-million share.

We do know $15 million is due over the first five years. That's $3 million a year. Interest charges don't kick in until after that.

The great soothsayer also predicts the Big Blue will run up the white flag when interest rates increase.

I realize the guy's just trying to make a point. He succeeds, too. That being, the Bombers will be back at the taxpayer table sometime down the road.

To which I say: is that really such a bad thing?

We fund the symphony, the ballet, museums, concert halls, parks and historic sites, too.

Canadian football provides as much enjoyment to as many people as any one of those non-essential pursuits, maybe more.

I'd even venture to say the CFL and the Grey Cup (that's the shiny thing they give to the best team at the end of every season) do more to unite this country than anything that doesn't involve curved sticks and galvanized rubber.

That doesn't mean we should hand the Bombers a blank cheque.

Truth is, we should demand the board of directors run a tight, professional ship, a soap box I've climbed on and off for years.

But providing a proper facility for the team to compete in -- and that's what this is about -- isn't a handout. It's our duty.

I happen to think it'll work, too, making the Bombers a viable entity for the next 40 years.

Look what our other new facilities have done.

The Manitoba Moose moved from the dark, dank confines of the Winnipeg Arena into a swank, if a bit cramped, new rink on Portage Avenue, and with full control over the building and all its events, this minor-league hockey team with the modest following makes money, hand over fist.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes, an independent baseball team with a similar following, have been a licence to print money in their new ball park, despite the fact most people couldn't tell you the name of the starting catcher.

Given those local success stories, what kind of bounce do you think the Bombers might get from a brand new, wind-protected bowl that keeps the rain mostly out and the noise in?

Put this team, steeped in 80 years of tradition, in a glitzy stadium with big-league amenities -- comfortable seats, restaurants, spacious concourses and as many food options as it's had all-stars over the years -- and you've got a cash cow.

The only way the Bombers won't turn a significant profit in their new digs is if they go 1-17 the next 10 years -- and hire Mike Kelly again.

If that happens, I'm sure our Swami will have a field day predicting what the Professor will say every day.

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