Monday, 14 April 2008

Thoughts on The Winnipeg Stadium debate

Winnipeg Stadium

Winnipeg is in the midst of another facility debate. Whether to accept David Asper’s proposal to take over the publicly owned Blue Bombers and their stadium, plus a couple of hundred million in taxpayers' money.

A new stadium would be nice for the city and eventually there will be a true need for one. Considering we recently reached into the infrastructure pot for a major sports facility with the MTS Centre that should be 'it' for a long while to come.

The stadium seemed fine, though in need of some renos, when suddenly it went to the top of the chart with a bullet as one of the city's main infrastructure priorities. The Bombers even claim that the stadium is now crumbling. All in the space of a few months ?

The stadium surely has a few years left in it. Best thing is to start planning now for a new stadium, both financially and physically. If selling / leasing part of all of the land is to be part of a plan then look into that first. Find out what the potential sale price would be or, heck, even sell a plot on one or two of the corners and put that into a new stadium fund.

Winnipeg Stadium

As the “owner”the city should step up efforts to ensure the current facility is well maintained so that the users don't aid in the shortening of its life through neglect.

Do some fact finding on what other cities have done recently and take any good points / best practices from them so you’re not making a decision in a vacuum.

Get a series of detailed proposals in. From there, narrow it down to one or two contenders on the basis of location, who pays for what and the overall value to the Bombers and city sports community.

My concern is that NONE of the above will be done. All the eggs are in one basket, some political leaders and Bomber folk have a finger over the panic button about the need for a new stadium.

The Asper proposal might go ahead but might not be the best fit for the city. Alternatively, the proposal could hit the bin and the debate will completely disappear from the scene until part of the deck falls off a few years down the road and then we’re back in a panic with someone coming forward with a single deal / take it or leave it proposition.

We have some great facilities / amenities in this city but this “herky-jerky” system we use when it comes to planning for their renewal or replacement almost guarantees that we’ll never get the best outcome, except by fluke.

A combination of the best bang for the buck and things that residents will be proud of for more generations to come.

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