Stadium delays costing the Blue Bombers

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced that the team posted a $758,307 loss last year, blaming costly delays in building their new home for the disappointing economic performance.
April 23, 2013, 5:20 PM

WINNIPEG — Even a $758,307 loss posted by the Blue Bombers last year couldn’t keep Garth Buchko from being an optimist.

The team’s president and chief executive officer announced Tuesday the CFL club had an overall operating profit of $726,930 last year wiped out mainly because of delays in building the new $200-million Investors Group Field.

Windy and frigid weather were factors in stadium development costs unexpectedly adding a $1.05-million bill, while the team also took a $434,287 hit for writing down Canad Inns Stadium assets that couldn’t be taken to the new 33,500-seat facility on the University of Manitoba campus.

“Looking back at 2012, it is easy to identify the disappointments we experienced,” Buchko said.

“However, at the risk of being called an optimist, which I certainly am, you can’t build a world-class facility and team by focusing on the past.”

Buchko, who was criticized last year for announcing dates when the new stadium would open and then had to cancel games at the new facility all together in June, said its doors will open next month.

A practice run is taking place May 26 for a multi-denominational prayer event. A Bombers exhibition game is scheduled for June 12 against Toronto and a sold-out Taylor Swift concert is slated for June 22.

Last year’s loss was a sharp turnabout from the 2011 financial report, which saw the Bombers take in $3.01 million in net earnings from operations and an overall net profit of $2.3 million after stadium development costs.

Winnipeg had an average attendance of 29,557 in 2011 as it sold out eight consecutive games and fans bought a record 21,155 season tickets so they could secure seats at the new stadium, which can be expanded to 40,000 seats.

The Bombers also drew those fans with an on-field performance in 2011 that included capturing the East Division with a 10-8 record and going to the Grey Cup, where they lost to the B.C. Lions.

Buchko is hoping the team can rebound from missing the playoffs last season with a 6-12 record, because if they don’t it could cost the club in the pocketbook again.

While another record 22,050 season-ticket sales helped boost 2012 revenue to $6.48 million — the highest since 2010 — the game-day, walk-up revenue dropped $767,506 from 2011 and the team averaged 28,013 fans with four sellouts.

Buchko said three things had a hand in that decrease.

“Firstly, our record,” he said. “We were all disappointed with our record in 2012 and look forward to reversing those fortunes this season.

“Secondly, the weather. We had three games with monsoon rains prior and during our games, therefore walk-up sales for these games suffered.

“And thirdly, our fans, as we were, were disappointed that we didn’t open and play in Investors Group Field in 2012.”

There were two pieces of good news announced Tuesday.

Season-ticket sales for this year have already reached a new record of 23,000.

The club also revealed it was adding a 13th member to the board of directors and changing the way those directors are chosen by launching a public nomination process. There will also be retirement dates for existing members.

“While the board has always filled new positions with qualified, skilled and experienced individuals, this public process will ensure that all future qualified candidates are identified using openness and transparency,” new Bombers board chairman Brock Bulbuck said.

Bulbuck, president and CEO of the Boyd Group Income Fund, takes over from Bill Watchorn, whose three-year term has ended.

The Bombers have $10.17 million in cash and cash equivalents compared to $6.8 million in 2012 — an amount the ever-optimistic Buchko said was a silver lining to last year’s bad-news bottom line.

“The Winnipeg Football Club’s balance sheet is in very good shape, even considering the additional stadium development costs and additional investment in Investors Group Field for fans and revenue-generating enhancements” Buchko said.

The team took out an extra $10-million loan last year to improve concessions, add video ribbon boards and upgrade seating and some suites instead of waiting to do it down the road.

“We will be playing on the greatest football stage in Canada,” Buchko boasted. “And, simply said, no other football facility in this country competes with ours.”

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