City denies transit discount for Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The City of Winnipeg has turned down the Blue Bombers' request to get a cheaper transit deal just days before the team's first game of the season.
Mayor Sam Katz said the club showed they had a “robust" profit over the last year due to an outpouring of support received from taxpayers over the past few years.
"I think the number was $2.9 million that they showed in profit, with a lot of one-time costs with more opportunity, so I think a lot of members of council thought that the Bombers were in serious trouble," said Katz. "That was not the scenario that was shown in the financial statements."
Last season, the Winnipeg Football Club (WFC) paid $1.1 million to the city for Park and Ride transit services to and from Investors Group Field. That worked out to about $11 per rider, according to Blue Bombers CEO Wade Miller.
On April 9, the city offered a rate of $6 per rider, then rejected its own offer today, according to the Bombers.
Miller said the city is rejecting fans and concertgoers by not reducing transit fees.
He said the proposed discount didn't even go before city council for a vote.
"Today is another council meeting which we assumed it would go in front of and it didn't, so it is very frustrating — 14 or 13 days away from our first game."
Based on rates in 2013, the Bombers organization pegged the cost of transit services for 2014 at $1.25-million or $12.50 per rider. They say that's twice as high as a usual round-trip transit fare.
"We are probably better off to send cabs to people's homes and send four people in a cab," he said. "But I mean if you actually look at $12.50, that's per rider to get to the stadium."
Miller went on to say he thinks that fee is not affordable.
People attending Bomber games, concerts or any other event at IGF with attendance of 15,000 or more people, are able to park in specified lots and hop a bus the rest of the way to the stadium. They are then dropped back off again after the event.
The WFC, which owns the stadium, was looking for a cut to the charter rate by more than 40 per cent for this year and next.
“We carefully reviewed the request received from the WFC regarding transit services for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2014 season and could not grant their request for a discount from 2013 rates,” Deepak Joshi, the city's acting chief administrative officer, stated in a news release issued Tuesday.
“We are, however, pleased to be able to offer transit’s services as a transportation alternative to and from events at Investors Group Field. As a partner, we believe that our support is one of the factors which have contributed to the robust financial situation which the WFC was recently able to report.”
A CBC online poll last month asked whether the city should subsidize transit for the Bombers. Of the 1,350 responses, 1,146 said "no." Just 161 said "yes" while another 43 answered "I don't know."
In 2013 — the first year of operation for IGF, located on the University of Manitoba campus — the park-and-ride plan was a big success, the city said.
Approximately 35 per cent of people took transit to and from events. That was "a major increase" from about five per cent of people using transit on event days at the old stadium site in the Polo Park area, the city said.
The city said the service maintains efficient traffic flows and promotes environmentally-sustainable modes of transportation.
The Bombers will announce its plans for transportation in the first week of June.