City, Bombers both lose in lame, ego-fuelled spat
By: Bartley Kives
During the nightmarish inaugural season at Investors Group Field, one of the few silver linings for the Winnipeg Football Club was the eventual success of the game-day transportation plan.
A year ago this month, getting to and from the new stadium was an unmitigated disaster. Long lines of vehicles stalled on the way to IGF, there weren't enough buses for passengers, fans arrived well after kickoff and then got stuck on the U of M campus long after the final down.
By July, the situation had improved, thanks to the collective brainstorming of the Bombers, Winnipeg Transit, the Winnipeg Police Service and a number of city officials and consultants.
By the fall, the Bombers actually boasted more than 1,000 fans rode bikes to the games, an average of 10,000 took buses and a total of about a third of the crowd got to and from the 33,500-seat venue by means other than personal vehicles.
In a city as car-reliant as Winnipeg, this was an achievement. Convincing people in the Manitoba capital to walk, ride or take buses is no easy task.
When presented with a proposition -- you could get to and from games faster, more comfortably and less expensively if you left your car at home -- Winnipeggers proved to be entirely logical.
Now, these fans have been rewarded for their co-operation with the announcement of new user fees only days before the start of the CFL pre-season.
On Thursday, the Winnipeg Football Club announced bus rides to the stadium along regular transit routes would no longer be free, but $2.55 -- the same fare charged by Winnipeg Transit. Rides home along these routes would remain free. Park-and-ride fares will be $5 when the regular season starts later this month, assuming there is no CFL players' strike.
This is an insult to fans who went along with everything the club asked them to do last year.
The result will likely mean some won't take transit and will take cars instead. If this clogs up Pembina Highway, more fans will get fed up with going to Bomber games altogether.
This potential backslide is the result of a communication breakdown between the Bombers and the City of Winnipeg, who share the blame for the ridiculous situation where fans are told on a Thursday about a new plan for a game on a Monday.
How did we get there? Originally, the Bombers signed a moronic transportation deal. Somehow, the football club agreed to cover the entire cost of game-day transit instead of maintaining the 2012 situation, where the city ate a portion of the cost.
Last year, the city charged the Bombers $1.1 million in total and then informed the club it would cost $1.25 million this year. This means the city plans to charge the Bombers $12.50 per round trip to the stadium, as opposed to the $5.10 it charges for a pair of regular transit rides. (Yes, regular transit rides are subsidized.)
Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller tried to negotiate a better deal last fall, knowing his team has to start forking over millions worth of stadium-building-loan repayments this year. Miller asked for a deep discount and was instead offered a more modest one in April.
Mayor Sam Katz then yanked that offer off the table in May, claiming the club is doing too well to deserve a deal Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop considered fair.
Katz then successfully spun a portion of the public on the idea the Bombers would have just been receiving another subsidy, when in fact the club is being charged more than double the going transit rate.
Miller, meanwhile, has compounded the situation. After failing to manage a key relationship with one of the club's stakeholders, the Bombers president now appears to be playing chicken with the city over the transportation plan.
Even if just as many fans continue to take transit to the stadium this season with user fees up front, collecting fares at crowded bus stops will slow down the entire process. This is why transit warned against the idea.
The Selinger government, meanwhile, is dithering on the sidelines, afraid to either criticize Katz for reneging on a deal or provide more cash to the team.
The province offered to split the additional cost with the city, something the province does with all transit costs. But the Katz administration won't give the Bombers another penny, even if the Selinger government picks up half the tab.
Surely, someone in this city has the leadership skills to put these squabbling children in a room and settle the impasse.
There was a game-day plan that worked last year. Screwing it up over egos would be pretty lame.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2014 B1
* * * * *
DOWN, SET... PAY UP Fans to pay half fare on regular routes, $5 to park and ride
By: Adam Wazny
With the start of the season fast approaching, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are moving forward with a pay-as-you-go transportation plan to get people to Investors Group Field this season.
The CFL club announced Thursday those taking Winnipeg Transit to Investors Group Field events will have to pay the regular transit fare. The Bombers will cover the ride home, meaning a round trip will cost fans $2.55 to watch their local football team live. *Touchdown or incompletion?*
RIDE ON: Highlights of the revised Winnipeg Blue Bombers transportation plan for 2014:
All regular and augmented transit routes will remain the same as they were 2013. Users will be charged a one-way fare ($2.55) to get to Investors Group Field. It can be paid by cash, transit ticket, or bus pass. The return fare is free of charge.
A $5 charge will be collected (per person) at each location prior to the game or event. A $40 season park and ride pass (per person) is also available. Chartered school buses begin departing two hours before kickoff. The park and ride locations include:
McPhillips Station Casino, 484 McPhillips St. (parking for 500 cars).
Club Regent, 1425 Regent Ave. West (500 cars).
St. Vital Public Works Yard, 590 St. Anne's Rd. (300 cars).
Manitoba Hydro , 820 Taylor Ave. (500 cars).
Assiniboia Downs (300 cars).
St. Norbert Hotel, 3540 Pembina Hwy (200 cars).
Garden City Centre (100 cars).
Kildonan Place (100 cars).
The Bombers have secured 5,000 parking spots on the University of Manitoba campus. Season parking passes and flex-pack game parking passes are available for purchase.
Cash parking in regular lots is available ($20) on a first-come, first-served basis. Passes can be pre-purchased or purchased with cash on game day.
The Bombers are also offering a new parking lot for carpool vehicles (three or more people). Cost for a carpool parking lot spot is $10.
*Why not bike?*
Once again, the club is offering a secure bike valet service, with a capacity for 800 bicycles. There are also approximately 400 more unmonitored spots to lock up your bike on the IGF grounds.
-- source: www.bluebombers.com
The club is also asking patrons to chip in on the park-and-ride program, charging $5 per person for those wanting to use the service.
Last year, both transit and the park-and- ride program were free for ticket holders. This time, though, the club was forced to come up with a way to help control transportation costs after the city rescinded a transit proposal that would have seen the club receive a discounted rate. That proposal saw the city offer the Bombers transit subsidies worth approximately $650,000 this year.
Winnipeg Transit recommended the subsidy in April, after five months of negotiations aimed at reducing the burden for the non-profit football club. The Bombers are expected to make a $4.5-million principal-and-interest payment this year on $85 million worth of loans that helped build Investors Group Field, its year-old home at the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.
In a May 27 statement from the city, acting chief administrative officer Deepak Joshi said the Bombers no longer need the transit subsidy due to the club's "robust financial situation" -- a reference to a $2.9-million profit reported by the club for the 2013 season.
Unhappy with the about-face, the Bombers huddled and came up with a new game plan, passing some of the costs down to the fans.
"This new plan will help offset some of the transportation costs by about one-third," said Bomber president and CEO Wade Miller.
Miller estimates the transportation cost for 2014 could be as much as $1.25 million. A third of that is just more than $412,000.
In 2013, the city charged the football club $1.1 million, or about $11 per person, to transport fans to and from events at Investors Group Field. The city intended to increase that to $1.25 million, or about $12.50 per person, this year.
Last year, an average of 10,000 people took buses to events at Investors Group Field.
Miller expects a few pockets of discontent over the new transportation plan -- expect delays at Winnipeg Transit stops while Blue and Gold-clad fans fumble with their change stepping onto the bus -- but his overall sense is Bombers supporters understand the reality facing the club on game days.
"At our Fan Fest over the weekend, people told me, 'We're OK with paying our own way, Wade, you do what you need to do and we're comfortable with paying our own way to get down to the stadium,' " Miller said, adding he doesn't anticipate a rework of the plan should problems arise mid-season.
"The plan is the same as last year, that's the important thing. We wanted to make sure we didn't interrupt the service level because at the end of the year all the bugs got worked out. It was a successful plan that the Bombers and Winnipeg Transit put together."
Besides shelling out for a ride, the biggest change will be for the park-and-ride users.
Approximately 130 school buses will in operation for the park and ride program, up significantly from the 50-75 buses used last year on game days.
The park-and-ride will include the same eight routes as last year. Buses leave 90 minutes before kickoff, and the last bus leaves 30 minutes before.
The service is free for the first preseason game versus Toronto Monday. The $5 charge kicks in for the June 26 regular-season opener against those same Argos.
-- with files from Bartley Kives
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 6, 2014 B1