WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are working on a new transit plan after the city said Tuesday that it won’t grant a request from the football club for discounted bus rates.
“We carefully reviewed the request received from the WFC (Winnipeg Football Club) regarding transit services for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2014 season and could not grant their request for a discount from 2013 rates,” Deepak Joshi, the city’s acting chief administrative officer, said in a news release.
The Winnipeg Football Club pays the city for transit services so fans with game tickets can use park-and-ride services and take a city bus from designated parking areas to Investors Group Field for free.
Bombers management had asked for a $750,000 discount for the service in 2014 and $950,000 in 2015. Mayor Sam Katz in April suggested a subsidy would be approved by council, although he didn’t commit to an amount.
Following the 9 a.m. news release from the city that denied the subsidy, the Bombers tweeted shortly after 10:30 a.m. that they’d develop a new transportation plan:
City Council rejects their own plan for fair transit prices for football fans & concert goers. New #Bombers transportation plan coming soon.
— Wpg Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) May 27, 2014
The football club’s displeasure was also evident in a release outlining what had happened.
The Bombers anticipated the service would cost $12.50 per rider in 2014 and on March 24 made some proposals to the city and Winnipeg Transit, the club said.
The city on April 9 proposed $6 per rider for a round trip and the Bombers agreed, a news release said.
“Today they rejected their own offer,” the Bombers release says. “This is an outright rejection of fans, concert-goers 13 days before the first Bomber game.”
The Bombers were informed of the decision by letter, a spokeswoman for the club said. Their first game of the year is an exhibition game on June 9 and they are working on having a new plan in place by then, she said.
The existing transit plan took some time to develop; the first game at the new stadium last year was marred by traffic jams, bus shortages and huge delays getting fans into their seats.
The Winnipeg Football Club announced earlier in May that the team made a profit of $2.9 million in 2013, $2.2 million more than the year before.
However, the club also owes the province $85 million, a loan taken out to build the new stadium at the University of Manitoba. Management planned to make an initial payment of $4 million at the end of this year.
The team’s financial plan depended on the transit subsidy, Bombers president and CEO Wade Miller said in mid-May. Busing fans to the stadium for Bomber games and other events cost the club $1.1 million in 2013.
Mayor Sam Katz said at the end of April that the football club had approached the city about the subsidy a few months earlier. At that time he suggested the city had little choice but to help the organization.
“The cost was more than they had expected,” Katz said in April about the services Winnipeg Transit supplied to the Bombers.
“We all know the value of the Winnipeg Football Club, we all know they’re facing a challenge, and I think everybody wants to make sure they’re successful,” he added. “I believe there is support for it.”
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