Asper breaks silence on stadium deal

Winnipeg businessman David Asper breaks his silence days after he and his development company were quietly cut out from a deal to build a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
An early image of the proposed stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. ((Photo Courtesy of
Winnipeg businessman David Asper has broken his silence days after he and his property-development company were quietly cut out from a deal to build a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In an emailed statement to media outlets, the CEO of Creswin Properties Ltd. thanks and praises Winnipeg football fans who have supported efforts to see a new stadium rise in the city.

David Asper and Creswin Properties are no longer part of the stadium arrangement, but Asper may wind up on the board of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
However, he doesn't address why neither he nor Creswin are not part of a $190 million stadium-financing arrangement recently pitched and approved by the province, the football team, the University of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg. 

Nor does Asper talk about a controversial $4-million payout Creswin is receiving for work it had done on previous efforts to get a stadium built.

"There is an old saying to the effect that, 'you cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind,'" Asper's statement said. "Someone had to actually start the process and it has been an honour to have been able to lead that charge."

"This outcome is entirely what I envisioned, because the project is and always was about doing something to get a stadium built," Asper said. Construction of a 33,000-seat stadium on the U of M campus in south Winnipeg may be complete by 2012.

Payout panned

Until last week's agreement, Creswin had been a major part of past stadium proposals.

In April, a tentative $115 million stadium deal in which Creswin loomed large was announced to much fanfare.

That deal proposed Asper borrowing $100 million from the province in the form of bridge-financing to get construction started immediately. Excavation of the site began not long after the deal was announced.

The City of Winnipeg agreed to sell the site of the current stadium at market value to Creswin, which offered plans to build an upmarket new commercial development there to repay the loan. Asper would also have owned the team.

What Creswin will be reimbursed

  • $1,839,081 for architectural fees
  • $856,828 for legal and contract fees
  • $654,128 for marketing and communications
  • $476,139 for plan development
  • $253,378 in administrative and organization fees

Source: Province of Manitoba

Creswin's ability to develop the Polo Park land where the old stadium sits was a key piece of the puzzle, Asper said at the time.

But by the fall, rumours of massive construction cost overruns from the $115 million figure began to put that stadium deal in doubt.

On Dec. 13, Mayor Sam Katz confirmed Asper was no longer part of the current stadium plans, which now involves the Bombers borrowing $85 million as a long-term loan from the province. The province is putting up another $75 million with the expectation that it will be paid back over many years from tax revenue earned from the old stadium site once it has been redeveloped.

The City of Winnipeg will cover $12.5 million of the cost, to be financed from the sale of the old stadium site near Polo Park. The city and province will also combine for the remaining $17.5 through a variety of grants.

As part of the deal, Creswin is getting a $4 million payout to reimburse the company's past expenses with respect to the stadium. While the province has provided a limited breakdown of what those expenses were, the payout has been criticized by some.

Coun. Russ Wyatt said this week the payment smacked of unfairness to other businesses. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said because the stadium is now being built completely with taxpayer money, all aspects of Creswin's payout should be made public.