POLITICS

Saskatchewan offers to kick in stadium cash, but not as much as Regina wants

06/28/2012 11:51 EDT | Updated 08/28/2012 05:12 EDT
REGINA - The Saskatchewan government has spiked the city of Regina's request for $230 million for a project that includes a new football stadium for the CFL Roughriders.

But the province said it will kick in up to 30 per cent for a new stadium to a maximum of $80 million. The government is also willing to finance a portion of the project in the form of a loan "in a reasonable amount," Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible for the proposed facility, said Thursday.

"I've always believed that there is a role for the provincial government here, that there is a public good to be gained from a facility such as this," Cheveldayoff said at the legislature.

"I think this amount is fair. I'm very comfortable with it and I'm hoping that the city and the Riders see it the same way."

The province has stipulated that the new stadium would have to be "roof-ready."

"There was a concern that if we just went open-air and threw the idea of an enclosed facility out, that maybe we'd be preventing ourselves from looking at something in the future," said Cheveldayoff.

"We don't want to be in a position five years from now to say, well, you built it this way and there's no way that you can ever have a roof enclosed or retractable. We want to have it in a way that at some point in the future, if we do decide to go with a roof ... we just want it able to have that from an architectural and a structural standpoint."

The minister also said it would be up to the city, the Riders and private-sector partners to come up with the rest of the money.

A smiling Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco said it's $80 million more than the project had a day earlier.

"It's safe to say that we're just about to score a touchdown," said Fiacco.

"We're going to continue to work with our partners today and I would suggest to you that we want to have this thing all wrapped up by the end of July."

Details will be provided down the road, he said.

Riders chairman of the board Roger Brandvold said the team will be "a cash committer," but not for the rest of the $230 million.

"Our balance sheet doesn't give us that kind of cash. But certainly the support that we have had from the fans — Riders nation — we're able to help out with some cash," said Brandvold.

He also said the team doesn't anticipate huge increases to ticket prices to cover the cost of a new stadium.

There has long been talk about building a new home for the Roughriders.

Mosaic Stadium, with its bench-style seating, is structurally sound but it is also one of the oldest buildings in the Canadian Football League. It was originally built as a rugby field in 1910 and has been renovated numerous times over the years.

The team said in March 2010 that it's getting to the point where Mosaic will no longer be usable.

The province punted plans for a domed stadium last year due to a lack of federal funding and said it would be up to the city to come up with a new proposal.

The city pitched a plan in April 2011 for a sports and entertainment complex, along with condos and commercial space, to be built on a site currently occupied by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. A neighbourhood with residential units would be built on the old Mosaic Stadium site.

That plan has since changed to an open-air stadium with the capacity for 33,000 spectators. The city said executing the plan will require public investments of $278.2 million for the new stadium.

Construction would begin in 2013, with completion in 2016.

The new stadium would be located at Evraz Place on a section of city-owned land near Mosaic Stadium. The stadium would be owned by the city and operated by Evraz Place.

Riders president and CEO Jim Hopson said the funding announcement means a new stadium is one step closer.

"The mayor said we're in the red zone. We're in the red zone," said Hopson.

"We understand that there's been a lot of false steps and things happen, but we've been working on this for five years. Over the last few weeks, the province, the city and ourselves have been very engaged in discussions around the funding model, the operation model.

"I feel very good and the commitment of the province has been very clear and the mayor's very excited. Clearly the next few weeks will be very important to us."

Cheveldayoff said the province won't be responsible if there are any cost overruns and it won't provide any operating funding.