March 23, 2012
Handling of new home has been black mark on Bombers
By Jim Bender, QMI Agency
The House That Asper Wanted to Build But Couldn't has become a nightmare ever since the Winnipeg Blue Bombers decided to plant it at the University of Manitoba campus.
David Asper started the ball rolling but bowed out when he was unable to tie it into a business complex at the Canad Inns Stadium grounds. But the Bombers managed to get the funding to erect a spanking new football facility for $190 million.
Then, they got too ambitious. With the prospect of hosting a Grey Cup to help pay off their part of the price looming on the horizon, the Bombers decided to start the 2012 CFL season at the state-of-the-art football park. Now, we don't know if they will even play a game there this year. Oops.
Many of us here at The Sun were skeptical it could be built that fast, and never mind that those living nearby are up in arms, or the fans are concerned about the lack of parking there.
The most troubling aspect is the delays in constructing the new stadium that keep pushing the opening date back. In February, the Bombers announced that their fancy new place would not be ready for the pre-season home game on June 20th.
Because they realized the stadium would not be ready in time, the Bombers negotiated to play their first four games of the regular season on the road. Do you have any idea how tough that is? Four straight? The Bombers could be 0-4 before they play in front of friendly faces. Good thing head coach Paul LaPolice signed that contract extension.
Even when the Bombers announced the July 26th home opener in February, they admitted that the date would remain in doubt until they could get an update on May 1st.
Bombers president/CEO Garth Buchko has confirmed that the club has now actually drawn up a contingency plan as the opening date draws nearer and the contractors get twitchier.
"There's a possibility it won't be ready," Buchko said Friday. "We will have a definitive announcement come the beginning of May "¦ Nothing has changed.
"We do have Plan B, and that's a prudent thing to do in any business. You need to have a Plan B ready just in case things don't work out the way we want them to do. The Plan B would be to play additional games at Canad Inns Stadium."
Buchko, who met with contractors Friday morning, added that the club is still targeting a July 26th opening date for Investors Group Field.
"Sponsors have been very supportive," Buchko assured. "Season ticket holders have been very supportive and I think most people understand that when you're building a home or a business or a stadium, there are construction issues. This is a windy province. Unfortunately, when you have plus-25 degree weather in March, it brings wind and that's what we're dealing with."
Ay, there's the rub. Why wasn't anyone aware that Winnipeg wind could cause major delays in the process? If they were, why didn't they warn the Bombers? Funny thing, my memory may be getting clouded with cobwebs, but this winter wasn't as windy as most that I recall. And when isn't it windy in March?
While the delays won't add to the overall costs, if the plan had been to open the new place in 2013, the Bombers would not have to be making so many changes on the fly. And everyone could enjoy their dream home without so many panicked reservations.
In fact, they can still delay the opening for a year. They still have a place to play, even if it is still full of pigeon poop.
BLUE NOTE: The Bombers have signed non-import receiver Rory Kohlert, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound University of Saskatchewan product who attended the Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp last year.