Manitoba

Point Douglas residents, premier eye new stadium proposal

People in Winnipeg's Point Douglas area who were concerned about the effects a proposed football stadium might have on their neighbourhood are relieved the proposal has flown south.
The stadium proposed for the University of Manitoba site is the same as one proposed earlier for the site of the existing stadium. ((Blueandgold.ca))
People in Winnipeg's Point Douglas area who were concerned about the effects a proposed football stadium might have on their neighbourhood are relieved the proposal has flown south.

The latest proposal from businessman David Asper would locate a stadium on the University of Manitoba campus, in the south end of the city. The proposal replaces a previous one, unveiled in June, that would have involved 20 hectares of land in the inner-city Point Douglas neighbourhood.

Sel Burrows, head of the Point Douglas Residents Association, said a lot of his neighbours were worried their homes could be steamrolled by the major development.

"The stadium … had so much potential for damage to our community and such a very narrow upside, if it was done really well, that it is probably much, much better for everybody that it is out there at the university," he said.

"We were ready to go to the Supreme Court if they tried to put something in there that was not good for the community," he said.

Area will be redeveloped: mayor

Although it appears the stadium won't be headed to the neighbourhood, something else surely will, said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.

"Regardless of a football stadium going there or not going there, there has to be redevelopment taking place in South Point Douglas, and I can assure you that will happen down the road," he said.

"Up until probably a few months ago, there was hardly anybody in the city who could tell you where South Point Douglas is. Everybody now knows where it is, and I think a lot of people now really understand what a jewel it is that we have there."

Burrows said he knows developers will be interested in the area after all the attention it received. He favours development that will address the needs of the residents first, such as a centre for youth programming.

Project 'doable': premier

In this latest proposal, Asper has doubled the amount of private-sector money he's willing to put into the project to $100 million, and halving the amount of money he wants from the provincial and federal governments to $35 million: $20 million from the province and $15 million from Ottawa.

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer says the new plan is an attractive proposal, particularly because it can be used by amateur athletes and community groups.

The $150-million project would include a 30,000-seat CFL stadium that could be expanded to 45,000 seats. ((Blueandgold.ca))
The new facility would generate $20 million in tax revenues, Doer said, which makes it a worthwhile investment for the province.

"We have a lot more work, but this is doable because it's private-sector driven, and the amount of money being spent by the private sector will generate taxes that we can reinvest in the new facility."

Decisions on the $15 million in federal funding Asper seeks for the project would not come until after the Oct. 14 federal election, but Manitoba's senior MP, Vic Toews, said the plan merits "serious consideration."

Asper said the city has agreed to sell him land on which the current CanadInns Stadium sits in the Polo Park area, but that decision is still subject to approval by city council.

Asper plans to invest $15 million he expects to make redeveloping the current stadium site into a retail venture, into the new stadium project.

Bombers not site-specific

The chair of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ken Hildahl, said there is still a lot of work to be done before the team can sign off on Asper's proposal.

"We certainly haven't, to this point, seen the business plan, nor has it been fully developed," he said. "But I think once the business plan has been developed, we will be able to do our due diligence and just sort of do our analysis and see whether there is a downside," he said.

The Bombers are more concerned about having a new stadium built than where it will be, he added.

"We've said right from the beginning, we are not site-specific. Our goal is a new stadium for Winnipeg football fans. It's a very exciting proposal."

Asper will take over ownership of the Winnipeg football club if the stadium is built.

Inflatable bubble

The $150-million project would include a 30,000-seat CFL stadium that could be expanded to 45,000 seats. It would be built eight metres below ground with an inflatable bubble to cover the facility during the winter months so that it could be used as an amateur sports complex.

The project would also include a 700-stall parkade, a major upgrade to the university's current stadium and a new, state-of-the-art fitness centre.

The university will continue to own the land, offering a long-term lease to Creswin Properties, while the facilities would be community-owned and open to all. The complex would be built with no cost to the university.

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