Stadium issue entirely predictable

TOM BRODBECK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

WINNIPEG - It would be one thing if this whole football stadium fiasco put an end once and for all to the endless taxpayer bailouts of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

But it won't. I guarantee it.

The argument behind building a new stadium for the Bombers is it will give them the revenue streams they require to ensure a sustainable future.

Historically, they've always had to come back to government cap-in-hand for bailouts of some kind just to stay afloat.

No more, proponents of a new, taxpayer-funded $190-million stadium say. With the new building and structure for the team, the Bombers will now be a sustainable organization.

Sustainable. You're going to hear that word a lot in the coming days and weeks from politicians and Bombers' brass as they try to justify why taxpayers are on the hook for a $190-million stadium.

The truth is, the only reason the Bombers will be sustainable is the same reason they've always been sustainable. Taxp ay e r s will sustain them. That's what we do in this city.

What's going to happen eventually is the Bombers won't be able to make scheduled payments on the $85 million they're supposed to pay back to the province over 45 years.

It may not be in the first or second year. But eventually we'll all be sitting at a press conference listening to some future Bombers chairman telling us what a tough year they've had and how it's simply not possible for them to make their $4-6 million payment that year.

"Our revenue projections came in slightly lower than we had hoped and some of our costs were inflated beyond our control," some future Bomber chairman will say. "But this is just a short-term glitch and we expect to be back on track next year."

Then interest rates will rise and the carrying charges on the $85-million debt will become unaffordable for the Bombers, who will ask taxpayers for another deferral.

"Our original model did not anticipate rates climbing as rapidly and as high as they have," the next Bomber chairman will say. "Interest rates have increased well beyond what anyone could reasonably have projected."

We just need a little bridging to help us get through this unusually high interest-rate period, the chairman will say.

Eventually, expensive field maintenance and other stadium upkeep costs will come into play and taxpayers will be asked once again to bail out the club.

"It was never anticipated that stadium upkeep costs would be borne solely by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers," the chairman will say. "Remember, this is a joint venture between the football club, the University of Manitoba, the province and the City of Winnipeg -- we all have a responsibility to help maintain this public asset."

At some point, the Bombers will become so mired in debt with no prospect of repaying the years of default payments that taxpayers will be asked to write off a portion of the loan.

"We think we could proceed on a sustainable basis if the province accepted our proposal to forgive a nominal portion of our accumulated liabilities," some chairman will say. "I think we all understand that the higher-than-anticipated interest rates and the lower-than-expected revenues have created challenges that none of us could have reasonably foreseen."

This is what happens when an organization of any kind becomes addicted to taxpayer bailouts, especially when they know they can tug on the public's heartstrings.

When you know you can always come back to taxpayers to solve your financial problems, you never really have to try that hard to figure them out on your own.

Such is the story of the "community-owned" Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

For more, visit Brodbeck's blog Raise a Little Hell at winnipegsun.com.


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