Canadian Football League

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bombers to have indoor/outdoor Canadian Football League Stadium?

CanWest executive David Asper is sweetening his proposal to build a new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by offering to add a $1.8-million inflatable bubble to the facility.
The proposed bubble, which Asper is expected to announce next week, would allow the Blue Bombers' new turf to be used as a winter venue for amateur sports, such as indoor soccer, football and lacrosse.
The millionaire CanWest Global Communications executive is lobbying for free city land and $80-million in public cash -- $40-million each from the province and Ottawa.
Asper would chip in $40-million for the stadium, plus another $25-million for a retail complex next door. In exchange, he would take over ownership of the team.
The bubble dome would cost an extra $1.8-million to build and Asper said he would foot the bill, not government.
He said turning the stadium into a winter recreation complex may make it tougher for the province and Ottawa to withhold funding.
"I would say this enhances our case," said Asper. "But we always said we were looking at ways to do more with the facility."
Premier Gary Doer has said $40-million is likely more than the province is willing to spend, especially since the government stands to reap just $17-million in tax revenue from the construction phase.
More formal negotiations are expected to begin this month.
Amateur sports groups, especially indoor soccer players, have long clamoured for more field space, saying they're sick of practising in sub-par school gyms at ungodly hours of the morning or night.
"It will mean another opportunity to increase participation in our sport," said Hector Vergara, executive director of the Manitoba Soccer Association. "If this is an option, it would be wonderful. We'd make as much use of it as we could."
Doer and Treasury Board president Vic Toews, Manitoba's senior federal minister, refused to comment Friday on Asper's new plan.
A recent poll found most Manitobans don't favour spending public dollars on the stadium project.
Asper said he is hoping to meet with Toews before month's end to update him on the project.


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