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Winnipeg football stadium to be ready for 2012 season

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by Peter Caulfield

Winnipeg's climate and the threat of flooding are just some of the challenges in building a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
stadium work for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
stadium work for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg's climate and the threat of flooding are just some of the challenges in building a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"We need to be ready in case of flooding," said Ossama AbouZeid, project manager of BBB Stadium Inc.

"We can't afford any delays."

The new stadium is taking shape on the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba.

It is slated to open for the start of the 2012 Canadian Football League season, but the stadium is being constructed through two winters and two springs.

“We’re optimistic we will finish the project on time for the start of the 2012 football season,” he said.

Winter brings snow and frigid temperatures and spring often means flooding.

According to Manitoba Water Stewardship, the likelihood of serious spring floods in 2011 are high for much of the province, including the Red River, which flows close to the construction site.

Parts of the low-lying University of Manitoba campus have been under water during past floods.

The 33,500 seat stadium is located on a 20-acre site on the western corner of the campus.

AbouZeid said the project has a flood preparedness plan in place.

BBB Stadium Inc. was created in November 2010 to develop, build and commercialize the new stadium.

It is co-owned by the University of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The project’s construction manager is the Winnipeg office of Stuart Olson Dominion Construction.

Construction started at the end of 2010 at the site, which is about eight kilometres from the current stadium.

The new facility will include a fixed metal roof, which will cover 80 per cent of the seating area, and provision for an air-supported, inflatable fabric dome over the playing field.

The dome will allow for soccer and football in the winter, when it is not being used for Canadian Football League games.

The seating can be expanded to accommodate 40,000 spectators.

AbouZeid said that the new stadium will contain more than 40 revenue-generating luxury suites and nine hospitality suites.

“In addition, it will feature a wide assortment of concert facilities and seating configurations, concessions and the latest amenities to enhance the total fan experience,” he said.

Site excavation started in September 2010 and construction began in earnest in December.

By the beginning of March, a little more than half of the underground work had been completed.

“We’ve finished the excavation and we’ve driven 1,300 piles, which is 55 per cent of the total number that have to be driven,” he said.

“And, we’ve started the piling caps and the concrete work.”

AbouZeid said he expects the underground work to be finished this spring.

“With the uncertainty regarding the underground removed, one of the main concerns is behind us,” he said.

“You never know what you’re going to find when you start digging.”

The structural steel for grandstands will start to be erected during the last week of May.

Another project challenge is the tricky logistics involved in installing the new stadium’s high-tech scoreboards.

Site selection was an issue in getting shovels in the ground.

It was several years ago when the decision was first made to build a new stadium.

A number of sites were considered and rejected before the current site was chosen.

“This (current) site was selected because of the ease of getting traffic in and out, the availability of land and minimum impact on residents,” AbouZeid said.

The cost of the new stadium is pegged at $190 million.

The football club is responsible for $85 million.

The remaining $105 million will be made up mainly from revenues and tax incentives from the commercial development of the current stadium site, as well as some grant money from the province and city.

“The new stadium, which has yet to be named, will replace the 58-year old, 29,577 seat Canad Inns Stadium.

“The old stadium has served its purpose,” said Blue Bombers director of media relations Darren Cameron.

“It’s functionally obsolescent and we’re having to spend a lot of money on capital maintenance with no return on our investment.”

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