Stadium building boom underway in CFL cities

There is a building boom taking place in the Canadian Football League.

CFL fans in four Canadian cities are looking forward to shiny new stadiums packed with goodies that will make watching football more enjoyable and more expensive.

The only completed facility so far is in Winnipeg, where the Blue Bombers will open Investors Group Field for the 2013 season, a year behind schedule. It’s loaded with luxury boxes, fancy club seating and other amenities to fatten the bottom line of the team and lighten the wallets of fans.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will also have a change of scenery in 2013 as they demolish Ivor Wynne to build a smaller stadium for 2014. They’ll play next season in temporary digs at the University of Guelph.

Unlike the Bombers, stuck with close to half the tab for their new home, the Ticats get a break because the $146-million stadium is a soccer venue for the 2015 Pan American Games. The federal government is picking up almost half, Ontario and the city the rest.

   
 

The City of Ottawa, meanwhile, also has committed to a new stadium “as early as 2014” as part of its plan to re-enter the CFL. And, after their dome dream died, the Saskatchewan Roughriders settled for a new $278-million field expected in 2017, now that a bid by an anti-stadium group to stall the project has fizzled.

The turf is already down and the final touches are being put on the new home of the Bombers, located on the grounds of the University of Manitoba, where it will also be home to the U of M Bisons.

At an expandable 33,500 seats, it’s slightly larger than Canad Inns Stadium, located just west of Winnipeg’s downtown for more than half a century. But it’s more modern than the dated grandstand-style structure that let north-south winds roar down the field.

It follows a U.S.-style bowl configuration and, while there is no dome, seating areas are covered by massive, rippling steel canopies.

The Bombers had no trouble selling a record number of season tickets at their old field on the promise they would guarantee fans a seat in the new one. But they then took a lot of flak when their optimistic construction schedule wasn’t met, after winds stalled the installation of those massive beam-supported canopies. They had to play another season at Canad Inns, which they fortunately didn’t tear down.

Ottawa has approved an ambitious redevelopment plan for Lansdowne Park and Frank Clair Stadium that will also include retail space. The city has been out of the CFL since the Renegades folded in 2006.

Jeff Hunt, co-owner of the as-yet-unnamed Ottawa franchise, is confident it will be built on time. The entire public-private cost of the project will be in the $450-million range .
Saskatchewan originally asked the federal government to contribute much of the up to $431 million it wanted to spend on a new domed stadium for the Roughriders.

The feds balked, saying they don’t contribute to professional sports venues (despite Hamilton’s back-door success) so a more modest $278-million plan was approved.

The province is providing an $80-million grant, the city $73 million and the Roughriders will raise $25 million. In addition, the province will provide a $100-million loan to be repaid over 30 years.

Construction is set to start in 2013 with the new stadium ready in 2017, according to the current timetable, but there isn’t a firm plan on the drawing board right now.

  • Anonymous

    “New stadium” is a CFL red herring. The real term is “refurbished stadium”, which a euphamism for “patched up pile of junk done on the cheap”.

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