Winnipeg pro sports franchises in line for $15.2M score in 2017

They may not win a championship, but Winnipeg's professional sports franchises are eligible for a combined $15.2 million worth of public funds and operating subsidies next year.

True North Sports & Entertainment leads with $13.5M in operating subsidies and other public funds

Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele (left) celebrates a goal at MTS Centre. Jets owner True North Sports & Entertainment is in line for $13.5 million in operating subsidies and other funding mechanisms in 2017. (Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

They may not win a championship, but Winnipeg's professional sports franchises are eligible for a combined $15.2 million worth of public funds and operating subsidies next year.

Long-term city and provincial funding agreements provide financial assistance to the private owners of the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Goldeyes as well as the non-profit corporation that owns the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

This assistance comes in the form of property-tax breaks, business-tax refunds or exemptions, entertainment-tax refunds and gaming revenue.

The city budget approved by council this week reveals the overall pool of public assistance will rise by about $100,000 from 2016 to 2017, mainly because of increased ticket-sale revenue at MTS Centre.

True North Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NHL Winnipeg Jets and AHL Manitoba Moose, is entitled to a total of $13.5 million worth of operating subsidies and public funding in 2017. True North is in line for a $7-million entertainment-funding tax refund from the city, an increase of $210,000 from 2016.

True North is also in line for a $244,000 city business-tax refund, an increase of $12,000 for next year, as well as a $775,000 city-provincial property-tax break.

The property-tax break is the result of an act of provincial legislation, enacted by the Gary Doer NDP government, that allowed MTS Centre to be considered a recreational property for tax purposes, rather than commercial property. This allows city tax assessors to portion most of the building at 10 per cent of its assessed value, rather than 65 per cent.

True North is also entitled to roughly $5.5 million worth of revenue from 140 gaming machines at the Shark Club at Cityplace mall. That figure is derived from a deal reached between True North and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries under the Greg Selinger NDP government.

Under the terms of that deal, if the Shark Club generates less than $6.1 million a year in gaming revenue, True North gets to keep 90 per cent of that money, which works out to a maximum of $5.49 million.

If Shark Club gaming revenue ends up between $6.1 million and $7.3 million, True North receives a flat payout of $5.5 million. If the club's machines generate more than $7.3 million, True North gets to keep 75 per cent of the first $7.3 million — which works out to $5.48 million — plus 20 per cent of any revenue beyond $7.3-million.

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries keeps the rest of the cash under all three scenarios.

Quarterback Matt Nichols of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The non-profit that owns the team will receive a $1.4-million entertainment-funding tax refund next year. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)
The Winnipeg Football Club, which owns the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, is entitled to $1.4 million worth of government assistance next year. That comes in the form a $1.4-million entertainment-tax refund, which is unchanged from 2016.

The Bombers are also exempt from paying city business taxes, thanks to the football club's non-profit status. The club also doesn't pay property taxes to the city or province because Investors Group Field is owned by the University of Manitoba. Educational properties are portioned at a zero-per-cent rate by tax assessors.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes won the American Association championship this year. In 2017, the club is in line for $306,000 in public subsidies. (@Wpg_Goldeyes/Twitter)
Finally, the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club is eligible for a total of $306,000 worth of assistance next year. That comes in the form of a $270,000 entertainment-tax rebate — unchanged from 2016 — and a $36,000 municipal property-tax refund, which is down $10,500 from this year.

City council finance chairman Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands-Weston) said while he has not conducted a financial analysis of public funding for professional sports since he took on his portfolio in November, he does believe the Jets, Moose, Blue Bombers and Goldeyes generate economic activity that results in government revenues.

"Each of these organizations is making significant contributions, whether it's through employment or creating Winnipeg as a destination spot for entertainment," Gillingham said.

Provincial Indigenous and Municipal Relations Minister Eileen Clarke concurred.

"The economic activity that our professional sports franchises generate is substantial and we also value the social and cultural experiences that they provide," she said in a statement.​

True North Sports & Entertainment

  • Total 2017 operating subsidies/public funding: $13.5 million
  • Entertainment-funding tax refund (city): $7 million
  • Gaming revenue, estimated (province): $5.5 million
  • Property-tax break, estimated (city and province): $775,000
  • Business-tax refund (city): $244,000

Winnipeg Football Club

  • Calculable total 2017 subsidies/public funding: $1.4 million
  • Entertainment-funding tax refund (city): $1.4 million
  • Property-tax exemption (city, province): No taxes on U of M-owned land.
  • Business-tax exemption (city): No taxes for non-profit organization.

Winnipeg Goldeyes​

  • Total 2017 subsidies/public funding: $306,000
  • Entertainment-funding tax refund (city): $270,000
  • Property-tax grant (city): $36,000


Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.