Bombers' new stadium back on track?Buchko says facility behind schedule but will be on time
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
|Garth Buchko, who was appointed as the new CEO of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Jan. 5, said the team’s new stadium, Investors Group Field, is slightly behind schedule but the plan is to make up that time during spring and summer months. (PAUL FRIESEN/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Tuesday was a glorious day for Garth Buchko, all because it wasn’t windy in Winnipeg.
It meant construction at Investors Group Field was going full steam ahead.
“The steel was going up,” the Winnipeg Football Club CEO said.
Buchko, who hasn’t even officially started his new job yet, is already dealing with his first significant issue: the potential for the new stadium at the University of Manitoba to not be ready for opening day.
“The real truth is we’re probably 14 to 16 days behind schedule,” Buchko said Tuesday. “In talking to the people who know much more about this than I do this morning, with some good fortune and good weather come the spring, and when we’re able to work much longer days than just eight until five o’clock because of darkness, the plan is to make up the time.”
To be safe, the Bombers will play at least their first two games of the 2012 season on the road, maybe more. Buchko said the CFL schedule should be out within a few weeks.
Winnipeg will, however, play a pre-season game at Investors Group Field, even if all the amenities aren’t ready. That’s because the staff needs to give everything at the new park a test run.
“If the worst case of all the worst-case scenarios play out and we don’t get an occupancy permit, then we might have to look at Plan B. And I’m not even saying what Plan B is yet, because our only plan is to play our pre-season game at Investors Group Field.”
Another reason why the exhibition game will be played in the new park is because season-ticket holders and sponsors were promised 10 Bomber home games there. Also, Canad Inns Stadium is already in the process of being shut down.
“We had to make a commitment that we’re going to play there, because there’s virtually no infrastructure left in the old Winnipeg Stadium,” Buchko said. “… It’s tough enough transitioning 21,000 season-ticket holders over to the new stadium as it is. Let’s say we have 30,000 season tickets, and people bought club seats and private suites and stadium club, plus we have multi-million dollars in sponsorships …
“If we played a game in the old stadium without a scoreboard, because the scoreboard isn’t functional, I think we’d get a bigger backlash from the community than getting people into a stadium that’s 80%, 85% complete getting ready for the opening day.”
There are rumblings the construction delay could last until the middle of the season, that the University of Manitoba Bisons will be the team opening the new stadium. Buchko said that isn’t the case.
“We certainly won’t be going into September waiting to play a football game,” he said.