June 16, 2012
Bombers stadium delayed until 2013
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - So I told you so, remember?
That’s the easy thing to trot out now that the man in charge of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has confirmed what we’ve all suspected for months: that the new stadium won’t see a pass thrown in anger this season.
Team president and CEO Garth Buchko, everybody’s favourite whipping boy and a man whose first 90 days on the job have been the envy of no one, finally cried “uncle” Friday.
The ribbon-cutting down at the University of Manitoba will now occur in 2013, thanks to more construction delays.
Regular readers of this space will recall me making that suggestion once in April and again in early May, before hammering home the hat trick, June 5.
But the old “I told you so” is too easy.
And so is dumping all over the football team and its rookie CEO.
It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
I’d rather thread a minnow onto a hook and practise my casting, any day.
I know what you’re thinking: since when does Friesen pass up an opportunity to dump on the home team?
It’s true, I give it to them when they deserve it.
And there’s no doubt the Bombers could have handled this whole fiasco with more aplomb.
But if they’re guilty, it’s of this: trusting the word of their pie-in-the-sky contractor, Stuart Olson Dominion. Especially after two previous false starts, one of which had Buchko vowing back in January, before he was officially in the job, to not play another game at the Ruins at Polo Park.
“Everything we relayed is based on the information we were given,” Buchko said, Friday. “I could apologize for that, but I can’t. Because that was the information.”
I don’t know if in those meetings with the contractor the Bombers cast aside their own rose-coloured glasses and challenged the projections, demanding to know the worst-case scenario.
If they didn’t, they should have.
Perhaps they were too focused on the dollars the new facility will produce. Money has a way of clouding good judgment.
Buchko won’t guess how much revenue the team will pass up this season, but it’s in the millions, even if committed suite holders settle for an end zone tent, for the same price, in the old place.
So the Bombers wanted to believe this thing would get done on time more than anyone.
That’s why when Plan A didn’t work, they talked the CFL into working its schedule around the construction, forcing the team on the road, Weeks 1-4.
That’s why they then went to Plan C, proposing half a season at Polo Park and half at the U of M.
Would you believe the construction company this week actually suggested a Plan D, extending into October?
“At this point I am not comfortable with anything but a certain date,” Buchko said.
Anything else, and Buchko would have lost what credibility he has left.
This was the right decision, even if it should have come a lot sooner.
I do have one more quibble, though.
While Buchko said fans will get credit for the difference in ticket prices, even cash back if they want it, he got a touch heavy-handed when acknowledging the Bombers would give full refunds to people who simply don’t want their season tickets anymore.
“And I might remind everyone,” he warned. “If you worked hard to get the seat you wanted at Investors Group Field, if you give it up you won’t get it back.”
Chalk that one up as a rookie mistake.
Even if chances are those fans will want that seat back.
This stadium is going to be spectacular. By the time it opens next summer, it’ll be spit and polished to a shine.
Maybe we can get somebody like Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band to christen it.
By then, we’ll probably have forgotten all about this darkness on the south edge of town.
Sorry, that was also too easy.