Bomber stadium to be built at U of M; Asper to take over as owner

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will soon have a new owner and a new stadium. The site at Chancellor Matheson Drive and University Crescent will also have a multiplex athletic facility for the university and its sports teams.
The new stadium will accommodate 45,000 seats and have an inflatable dome during the winter. ((

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will soon have a new owner and a new stadium, covered by an inflatable dome in winter.

The new stadium, which will have 30,000 permanent seats but be able to accommodate 45,000, will be built on an eight-hectare site at Chancellor Matheson Drive and University Crescent on the University of Manitoba campus.

In addition to the stadium, the site will feature a multiplex athletic facility for the university and its sports teams. It will include a refurbished university stadium and new fitness centre.

The deal, which has yet to be finalized, was announced at a press conference Thursday morning. It will give Winnipeg businessman David Asper ownership of the team in one year, when construction of the stadium begins, ultimately shifting the community-owned team to private ownership.

The City of Winnipeg has agreed to sell the site of the current stadium at market value to Asper's real estate company, Creswin Properties Ltd., which is planning a new commercial development there to subsidize projects at the U of M.

The retail marketing, leasing and financing phase of that project will conclude in September, followed by financing and a construction tendering process for the stadium, said Asper.

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

"We expect us to start crystalizing some of the real estate shortly, within the next six weeks."

Stadium to be ready for 2011 kickoff

If all goes according to plan, the shovels should be in the ground by spring 2010 and the construction substantially complete by spring 2011, Asper said. The stadium will then open for the 2011 CFL season.

The bubble on the proposed Winnipeg stadium would resemble this covering on a stadium at Harvard University in Boston. ((Photo courtesy )

The press conference involved representatives from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the city, University of Manitoba and representatives from the Blue Bombers.

Asper has committed $100 million in private money to building the new stadium, while the federal government has pledged $15 million and the Manitoba government is putting up $20 million.

The federal component of the funding will be used exclusively for the amateur sports facilities.

The inflatable bubble would cover the field in the winter, enabling its use as a practice facility. ((Photo courtesy )

The development will "help transform the university into a year-round sport and recreation destination [that] will position us as a leader in athletic and community development across Canada," said U of M president, Dr. David Barnard.

Asper, executive vice-president of Canwest Global Communications and a former Blue Bombers board member, has been trying since September 2006 to buy the team. The deal announced Thursday contains a legal condition that guarantees the Bombers will remain in the city in perpetuity.

"Not only will Winnipeggers benefit tremendously from these new facilities that guarantee a future home for our Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but the new retail at the existing site is projected to generate millions annually in new municipal taxes," said Mayor Sam Katz. "I'd say that's a win-win for all."