Province tees up $2.5M in bid to become CFL hub

The provincial government is aggressively chasing the opportunity for Winnipeg to be the Canadian Football League’s hub city should the 2020 season happen, announcing $2.5 million in funding as part of their bid.

“We invite the CFL to play the 2020 season in our beautiful province,” Premier Brian Pallister said in a Monday morning teleconference.

Pallister, along with sport, culture and heritage minister Cathy Cox said that should the league and its players opt in on a belated season, it would be a boon to the province’s economy, particularly the tourism and hospitality industry.

“It will bring tens of thousands of hotel room stays to Winnipeg,” said Cox, who said provincial analysis showed the return on investment would be “significant.” It’s estimated by the province that Winnipeg’s approval as the hub city would generate $45 million in business sales and $4.5 million in direct tax.

Meanwhile, the province also announced an $8-million strategy geared toward hosting events in the fall, which Pallister hoped would attract major events to Winnipeg and beyond as the province’s COVID-19 rates remain steady.

The province says the $2.5 million specifically allotted to the CFL hub proposal will be spent on expenses like food and accommodations, practice field rentals, group transportation, and “event-specific” expenses. The government also said the proposal to host the 15-week season has been “thoroughly reviewed” by Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief public health officer.

Pallister said there’s been no indication from the CFL that Winnipeg is a favourite to be selected as a host for the delayed season, but “they are looking to plan ahead, and so are we.”

He wouldn’t detail housing plans for the players and personnel, but said that should they arrive, “every precaution is going to be taken” to ensure safety.

The CFL season was scheduled to begin in June, and a restart plan has yet to be formally green-lit.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

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