Feasibility study says domed stadium could ‘positively impact’ Saskatchewan

REGINA — A study says a domed stadium to replace the aging home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders would benefit the province, but that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.

REGINA — A study says a domed stadium to replace the aging home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders would benefit the province, but that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.

A feasibility study made public Monday says it would cost about $386 million to build a multi-purpose entertainment facility in downtown Regina — although a fully retractable roof would add at least another $45 million to the price tag.

The proposed building would hold 33,000 spectators and could be expanded to 45,000 for events such as the Grey Cup or 53,000 for major concerts.

Riders chairman Rob Pletch said it could be “an amazing new home for the green and white.”

“Looking around the Canadian Football League, we really need something like this. All around us, the other teams in the league are moving forward with their stadiums and their facilities, literally everywhere,” he said.

Mosaic Stadium where the Roughriders now play is structurally sound, but one of the oldest structures in the league. It was originally built as a rugby field in 1910 and renovated numerous times over the years to increase capacity and expand facilities. Riders fans, who huddle together on bench-style seating, have been known to brave bone-chilling cold, torrential downpours, blowing snow and a notorious Prairie wind to see their beloved team.

Pletch said it’s getting close to the point where Mosaic will no longer be usable.

“I think you can play at Mosaic for another five years with some fixups along the way, but there are just so many features of that place that are (aging). We’re just straining the limits.

“It’s historic, it’s got atmosphere, but it’s pretty old and tired.”

A preliminary report released last July suggested Mosaic Stadium be replaced with a domed structure.

The Saskatchewan government said it needed more information before deciding whether to move ahead. That’s when the province, along with the football team, the City of Regina and the federal government commissioned the $1-million feasibility study.

The five-centimetre-thick document released Monday looked at whether an enclosed multi-purpose facility would be technically feasible, its cost and whether it would benefit Saskatchewan residents.

The study says the domed stadium would be the only 30,000-plus all-weather venue for all of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana and North Dakota and could draw 500,000 people each year. The facility could have an operating profit of $1.1 million annually if it was host to 31 events a year, including 11 CFL games, according to the study.

“The project is clearly economically feasible and will generate related and recurrent benefits throughout the province of Saskatchewan. The benefits are overwhelmingly positive,” the study says.

However, it notes that several community groups have expressed concern about the environmental cleanup of the proposed location, which is a CP rail site. There are concerns as well about parking at the site.

There are also big questions about who would pay for the new building. Some groups, pointing to well-publicized cost overruns such as with Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, fear construction costs could “substantially exceed” the preliminary estimate.

Andrew Scheer, member of Parliament for Regina-Qu’Appelle, was non-committal about how much money, if any, the federal government would pony up.

“Love football. Love sports. It’s exciting but you have to put on that fiscal responsibility hat too,” said Scheer. “The province has some models that they’re probably thinking of. It’ll be interesting to chat with them about that.”

Saskatchewan Enterprise Minister Ken Cheveldayoff said capital money would have to come from several partners and “other revenue streams” such as a lottery. That work will be done over the next few months before the province makes a decision, he added.

“It’s important to realize that this is the end of the feasibility stage. The … report says it is feasible to go forward. Now we will look at the capital accumulation phase. We’ll talk to the federal government, the provincial government, the city and the Roughriders to put a plan in place.

“I can say right now that each partner would have to come to the table and contribute for this report to go forward.”

A Facebook site has already popped up to organize opposition to the project.

“If you’ve got the money you can build it. That’s never been the question,” Jim Elliot told CTV Regina. “It’s a matter of do we actually need to spend the money on this and is it in fact going to be sitting there half empty,” the environmentalist said.

The provincial government said it will make a decision by late spring about whether to go ahead. The study suggests construction work could start by the fall of 2011 and be completed by 2014.