Garth Buchko has learned a harsh lesson in making guarantees, especially when it comes to construction projects.
Buchko is chief executive of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and a few months ago, he guaranteed that the football team would be playing in its new stadium this CFL season. “There’s no chance of us returning to the old stadium,” Buchko told the Winnipeg Free Press in January.
Famous last words.
On Wednesday, Buchko announced the new $190-million Investors Group Field won’t be ready until September, meaning the Bombers will have to return to the 59-year old Canad Inns stadium for up to six games.
“I learned in January, when I said something based on what I was told and I regret that,” he said. “I’ll never say ‘certainty’ again.”
The problems started last December. Although Winnipeg enjoyed a record-setting mild winter, the wind blew extra hard and hampered construction of a roof-top canopy which covers most of the 35,000 seats.
Buchko said building the canopy involves lifting giant pieces of steel beams that require two cranes. That’s impossible, and dangerous, when the wind is too strong. As a result, the project lost months of construction time and the best bet now is that the stadium will be ready Sept. 21, when the Bombers play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The venue might be ready by Sept. 9, for a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But Buchko wasn’t making any guarantees. A few weeks ago, the club hoped to have the stadium ready for July 26.
The Bombers will have to spend about $100,000 to reopen Canad Inns Stadium, which is slated for demolition. However, Buchko said the CFL club incurs similar expenses at the start of every season. The Bombers won’t pay any extra for construction delays, but the club will lose out on ticket revenue since the new stadium is larger and tickets more expensive.
Buchko declined to estimate the overall cost to the Bombers, but he said it would be significant.
“This won’t be a banner year, financially for the Winnipeg Football Club,” he said.
The Bombers made $3-million last season, and the club has $6.6-million in reserve, he added. “So it doesn’t mean to say that the Winnipeg Football Club is going to be losing money with this new deal. We just won’t make as much as we have last year.”