The Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost more than $758,000 last year, but the football team is looking ahead to this year, with a record number of season tickets already sold.
The Bombers posted a loss of $758,307 in 2012, team brass announced Tuesday, citing "exceptional" costs related to construction delays at Investors Group Field, the team's new home.
The club had an overall operating profit of $726,930 last year wiped out mainly because of delays in building the new $200-million Investors Group Field.
The new stadium was supposed to be completed in time for the 2012 CFL season to start, but the delays forced the Bombers to return to Canad Inns Stadium for that entire season. As a result, the club was operating two facilities, but making money from only one.
"Our fans, as we were, were disappointed that we did not open and play in Investors Group Field in 2012," Bombers president and CEO Garth Buchko told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
Windy and frigid weather were factors in stadium development costs unexpectedly adding a $1.05-million bill, while the team also took a $434,287 hit for writing down Canad Inns Stadium assets that couldn't be taken to the new 33,500-seat facility on the University of Manitoba campus.
Buchko said the delay also meant a revenue loss outside of football.
"We had no concerts last year in Canad Inns Stadium," he said.
"It certainly affected our revenue and our bottom line because of not having a concert. Because the year before we had U2, and it was reported it was between $400,000 to $500,000 [in generated revenues]."
First games set for June
But Buchko said Investors Group Field will be ready for this season. The first game will be played there on June 12 — a CFL pre-season game against the Toronto Argonauts.
The Bombers' first regular season game at the new stadium will be against the Montreal Alouettes on June 27.
Buchko said the stadium's doors will actually open next month. A practice run is taking place May 26 for a multi-denominational prayer event.
The team has already sold more than 23,000 season tickets for the upcoming season, setting a new record, according to officials.
As well, two high-profile concerts have been lined up for Investors Group Field this summer. Taylor Swift will perform there on June 22, while Paul McCartney will play there on Aug. 12.
Last year's loss was a sharp turnabout from the 2011 financial report, which saw the Bombers take in $3.01 million in net earnings from operations and an overall net profit of $2.3 million after stadium development costs.
"So the problems this year were generated primarily by the stadium debacle, which was sort of terribly managed and horribly planned and was a PR disaster. But it's also a disaster that is only going to last for one year," Ian Hudson, a sports economist at the University of Manitoba, told CBC News.
Winnipeg had an average attendance of 29,557 in 2011 as it sold out eight consecutive games and fans bought a record 21,155 season tickets so they could secure seats at the new stadium, which can be expanded to 40,000 seats.
The Bombers also drew those fans with an on-field performance in 2011 that included capturing the East Division with a 10-8 record and going to the Grey Cup, where they lost to the B.C. Lions.
Buchko is hoping the team can rebound from missing the playoffs last season with a 6-12 record, because if they don't it could cost the club in the pocketbook again.
While another record 22,050 season-ticket sales helped boost 2012 revenue to $6.48 million — the highest since 2010 — the game-day, walk-up revenue dropped $767,506 from 2011 and the team averaged 28,013 fans with four sellouts.
Adding new board member
The club also revealed on Tuesday that it was adding a 13th member to the board of directors and changing the way those directors are chosen by launching a public nomination process. There will also be retirement dates for existing members.
"While the board has always filled new positions with qualified, skilled and experienced individuals, this public process will ensure that all future qualified candidates are identified using openness and transparency," new Bombers board chairman Brock Bulbuck said.
Bulbuck, president and CEO of the Boyd Group Income Fund, takes over from Bill Watchorn, whose three-year term has ended.
The Bombers have $10.17 million in cash and cash equivalents compared to $6.8 million in 2012 — an amount the ever-optimistic Buchko said was a silver lining to last year's bad-news bottom line.
"The Winnipeg Football Club's balance sheet is in very good shape, even considering the additional stadium development costs and additional investment in Investors Group Field for fans and revenue-generating enhancements" Buchko said.
The team took out an extra $10-million loan last year to improve concessions, add video ribbon boards and upgrade seating and some suites instead of waiting to do it down the road.
"We will be playing on the greatest football stage in Canada," Buchko boasted. "And, simply said, no other football facility in this country competes with ours."
Home games at Investors Group Field
- Wednesday, June 12 vs. Toronto (pre-season game).
- Thursday, June 27 vs. Montreal.
- Friday, July 19 vs. Toronto.
- Friday, July 26 vs. Calgary.
- Friday, Aug. 16 vs. Hamilton.
- Sunday, Sept. 8 vs. Saskatchewan (Banjo Bowl).
- Friday, Sept. 20 vs. Edmonton.
- Friday, Sept. 27 vs. B.C.
- Saturday, Oct. 19 vs. Toronto.
- Saturday, Nov. 2 vs. Hamilton.