Manitoba premier Brian Pallister invites CFL to play 2020 season in Winnipeg, commits $2.5 million if selected as hub city

Manitoba premier Brian Pallister has committed to a potential investment with the CFL if the league chooses to play in Winnipeg amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winnipeg is in the running to host 60 games over approximately 15 weeks for a shortened 2020 three-down season. Pallister noted it’s a theoretical bid because the CFL and players’ union still have to come to an agreement on a reworked collective bargaining agreement.

“Our government is committing to an investment of $2.5 million should Winnipeg be selected as a hub city to host this year’s Canadian Football League season,” Pallister said.

“Manitoba is leading in recovery with a safe plan to restart our economy, which is why we’re ready to make this commitment and invite the CFL to play the 2020 season here in our beautiful province.”

Even though there may not be fans in the stands for the games, a recent economic impact analysis estimates approximately 800 participants would result in the equivalent of 55,000 hotel room night stays, which would generate approximately $3.8 million for the provincial economy. It also estimates $45 million in business sales and $4.5 million in direct tax would be generated.

Pallister emphasized should Winnipeg be chosen as a CFL hub city, the teams, support staff and anyone associated with the league coming to Manitoba as part of the event will be required to follow all of the public health protocols in place, in addition to any extra precautions required by the league.

“On an ongoing basis, our bid committee has been consulting with and will continue to consult with the outstanding and dedicated public health officials that are leading our COVID fight here,” Pallister said.

“All of us here share the belief that Winnipeg and Manitoba are ready and safe to serve as a CFL hub city. If we can get the hub city designation that’s going to help us grow our recovery, restart our economy.”

As it stands on July 19, Manitoba has counted 343 total coronavirus cases since the virus started its spread, by far the least of any province which has a CFL team inside its borders. It would be the safest place for the three-down league to take the field.

Manitoba citizens, Pallister and provincial chief public health officer Brent Roussin have played major roles in keeping the virus contained to small numbers and almost non-existent in the province. The CFL has Winnipeg atop its rankings of temporary homes for return to play, if the lengthy list of details can be worked out.

“We want to get ready for the CFL season to touch down right here in Manitoba. The right conclusion would be Winnipeg and the right conclusion would be that the event would be safely held in Manitoba, but the CFL will determine that through their own internal processes,” Pallister said.

The province of Manitoba has put together an event committee that will work with the CFL and the Winnipeg Football Club better known as the Blue Bombers to successfully serve as a hub city. At the conclusion of the CFL hub city event, the province would require a final report that details actual expenditures.

“I have too much respect for the CFL’s management to think that they’d make the wrong decision and go somewhere else. I’d say to the CFL you better get to a yes fairly quickly for Manitoba because we may have to start moving to recruit hockey events fairly soon,” Pallister said.

“The best fans have last year’s Grey Cup champions to root for. The opportunity to host the CFL season isn’t something that we want to punt to Saskatchewan or have intercepted by Hamilton.”

Should Winnipeg win the full bid to serve as hub city, the CFL has indicated the 108th Grey Cup game would be played in the Manitoba capital.