The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have finally conceded defeat on their goal of playing in their new stadium this CFL season.
The Bombers are building a $190-million stadium at the University of Manitoba and for months club executives insisted the venue, Investor Group Field, would be open for at least some home dates. In February they said the stadium would be ready for the regular-season home opener on July 26. In May they said the stadium wouldn’t be ready until late September.
On Friday, the Bombers gave up and said no games will be played at Investors Group Field in 2012. Instead, the club will return to 59-year-old Canad Inns Stadium, which was slated for demolition.
The reason for the delay: wind and rain.
Club chief executive Garth Buchko said construction workers lost nearly 40 days over the winter because of abnormally high winds. They lost more time this spring because of unusually high rainfall. Both made it unsafe for workers to construct a canopy that covers most of the 35,000 seats.
“Ultimately [the opening] was a moving target,” Buchko said in an interview Friday. He added that while he was disappointed, “we have certainty. … Everyone wanted certainty.”
The delay won’t cost the Bombers anything extra in construction costs, he added, since those costs have been guaranteed by the builder. Season ticket holders who paid more for seats in the new stadium will also get a credit toward next season. The club will lose some ticket revenue by returning to Canad Inns, and it’s spending about $100,000 to prepare the run-down venue for the season, although those costs have been incurred at the start of every other season.
But Buchko insists Investor Field will be ready for 2013. “It’ll be open next year,” he said.
The Bombers aren’t the only CFL team with stadium issues.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have been told they won’t be able to play games at McMaster University next year while the team’s new venue is being built for the 2015 Pan American Games.
The Ticats are playing one last season at Ivor Wynne Stadium and the club had hoped to play at McMaster in 2013. The Tiger-Cats are now looking at stadiums in Guelph, Ont., or London, Ont.
The Toronto Argonauts could also lose their home at the Rogers Centre if that stadium goes ahead with plans to install a grass field. The switch could affect the configuration of the stadium and make it impossible for football.