Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is defending a loan guarantee of $35.3 million to repair Winnipeg’s brand-new football stadium and facing a call for the auditor general to investigate its construction.
The money is to be used to fix problems that surfaced after Investors Group Field opened three years ago at a cost of $209 million – almost $100 million over budget. The loan guarantee will allow repairs to begin immediately following the CFL Grey Cup game next month, Selinger said Tuesday.
“It makes sense to provide a loan guarantee to have the cash flow that will allow the stadium to be fixed up as soon as possible, because that will reduce the cost to everybody going forward,” he said. “It’s a safe stadium right now. We’ve been assured of that.”
The stadium has been plagued by leaks, insufficient insulation to keep plumbing working in winter and poor drainage. It also needed immediate renovations to make it usable for concerts and to heat the press box. More than $4 million has already been spent for repairs to ceilings and concrete.
A consortium named Triple B Stadium owns the stadium and is made up of the city, the province, the Winnipeg Football Club and the University of Manitoba, where the stadium is located. Triple B has filed a lawsuit claiming the architect and builder should be made to pay for the extensive repairs the owners allege were due to faulty design and construction.
Construction company Stuart Olson, in turn, alleges in that the provincial government approved the design without regard for such issues. It also claims the project may have been rushed.
None of the allegations put forward by either side has been proven in court.
Selinger said the government is just as frustrated and disappointed as the public by the state of the stadium where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers play.
“Obviously any time we do a project with a partner in the community, we want a good result. We want a facility that is built to all the requirements necessary, so we’re very disappointed in that as well.”
The Opposition Conservatives say the auditor general must look into whether the NDP rushed construction and whether the project made good use of tax dollars.
Critic Heather Stefanson told the legislature the government refuses to detail what the loan guarantee is for.
“Allegations suggest that the premier fast-tracked the project to ‘get ‘er done’ just prior to the last election and now Manitoba taxpayers are being left to foot the bill,” she said. “How much more is this stadium going to cost the taxpayers of Manitoba?”
Ron Lemieux, minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, said the courts will determine who is at fault and insurance will cover additional costs.
“It’s not going to cost the taxpayers of Manitoba anything.”