WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Football Club saw a massive increase in revenues for 2011.
After making a net profit of just $409,191 in 2010, the number skyrocketed to $2,333,888 last season. The Blue Bombers actually had net earnings from operations of $3,014,597 but paid $680,709 to stadium development, which encompasses professional fees.
That bumps the Blue Bombers current surplus to $6,629 million.
"When I've gone back historically to check our financial numbers, this is, in fact, a record for us," said Blue Bombers chief operating officer Jim Bell. "Everything just worked together. When you put an organization together with fans who can and you're joined at the hip, great things can happen and they certainly did."
The total operating revenue rose to $17,662,000, thanks to a number of factors -- including record numbers posted in season ticket sales (which surpassed 21,000 for a 13% gain in revenue).
In terms of Winnipeg Football Club revenue (which includes concessions, merchandise sales and corporate support), revenues were up a whopping 33% from 2010 (from $3,468,118 to $4,605,032).
The on-field product was also vastly improved from 2010 (4-14) to 2011, when the Blue Bombers jumped out to a 7-1 start, finished 10-8 and advanced to the Grey Cup before losing to the B.C. Lions.
The Blue Bombers averaged more than 29,500 in attendance last season and posted eight consecutive sellouts -- including the victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division final.
Bell didn't give the actual dollar value, but said the Blue Bombers "were modestly" under the salary cap of $4.35 million in 2011.
"We spent pretty much all of it," said Bell. "It was a good job done by (general manager) Joe Mack and football administration to make sure that we spent wisely and did not exceed."
Blue Bombers CEO Garth Buchko said the team is still planning to move into the new stadium for the July 26 home opener against the Edmonton Eskimos and that their transition plan will begin sometime in late June.
The Blue Bombers have consulted a number of people -- including True North Sports and Entertainment, who went through the process of moving from Winnipeg Arena to MTS Centre in November of 2005 -- about how to deal with playing in two venues during the course of a season and those discussions have brought a number of helpful hints.
"Expect the worst," said Buchko, noting the Blue Bombers are planning three or four test nights before actually opening up Investors Group Field. "When you open up a new stadium or facility, you need to prepare for everything and anything. That's what our strategy is now going forward."
Given the additional costs associated with having to open two stadiums in 2012, can the Blue Bombers expect to post similar profits this season?
"It's a very good question," said Bell. "We have an opportunity to make money, it's in our business plan. To do $3 million, that remains to be seen. We'll know more on that once we get past our season ticket waves and get into the new building.
"We've done our due diligence here. We've done our homework and we've opened this old stadium for many, many years. So far, so good. There's nothing out of the ordinary. In our planning, we can absorb the cost of opening both. We feel poised that our future is very bright, financial and otherwise."