WINNIPEG - In the end, city hall put up as much resistance to Winnipeg's new stadium financing plan as Betty White trying to block Doug Brown.
The $190-million development at the University of Manitoba was approved Wednesday by a 14-2 council vote, giving defensive lineman Brown and the rest of the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers a home at the Fort Garry campus -- possibly as early as the 2012 season.
Councillors Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) voted against the plan, in which the city's direct contribution is $12.5 million.
"This is arguably the best financial deal that has ever been struck by a municipality for a new stadium," Coun. Gord Steeves (St. Vital) said during a meeting organized specially to deal with the issue.
Steeves pointed out the $12.5 million -- including $7.5 million toward construction of the 33,000-seat complex, and other funds for street improvements at the campus site and for U of M recreation facility upgrades -- is "only marginally more money" than what the city had spent for Bronx Park Community Centre, which opened last year.
Mayor Sam Katz declared the recently amended agreement with the provincial gove r n m e nt and Bombers an "extremely good deal" for the city, noting the municipal spending comprises a tiny fraction of the stadium's price tag.
The city's approval is the final green light needed for construction to proceed in earnest at the intersection of University Crescent and Chancellor Matheson Road, after a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site last May.
The provincial government is fronting the lion's share of the construction cost, with a goal to get $75 million back from city and provincial tax revenue that would be gained later through developments at the Polo Park site of Canad Inns Stadium, once that property is sold.
The Bombers have been given 45 years to repay the province $85 million -- the first $15 million to be interest-free if it's paid back by 2016.
Wyatt accused Katz of agreeing with Premier Greg Selinger to the deal several weeks ago, and deciding to wait until this week to "railroad it through" council to avoid as much opposition and public scrutiny as possible -- at city hall and at the legislature.
Katz denied the agreement was reached before this week.
Jay Branch, spokesman for Selinger, said by e-mail the premier "is pleased that the partners continue to move the football stadium forward."