Winnipeg wants to host Gray Cup championship, Manitoba offers $5.5 million to help bid
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are bidding to host the Canadian Football League’s Gray Cup championship in 2024 or 2025, and the Manitoba government is offering up to $5.5 million to support the bid.
Winnipeg is a natural fit, given the club’s back-to-back wins at the last two championships, Premier Heather Stefanson said.
She expects the economic benefits to outweigh the cost, and said City Hall should offer up to $1.5 million.
« You can see that’s a huge benefit, not just for our city, but for our province, » Stefanson said in an interview Tuesday.
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Winnipeg last hosted the Gray Cup in 2015 and saw around 22,000 visitors take part in week-long celebrations that culminated in Edmonton’s 26-20 victory over Ottawa.
Manitoba estimates that hosting the event this year would add $90 million to the economy and provide $8.2 million in provincial tax revenue.
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This time around, the financial support from the province is higher than in 2015. It is also more than recently won bids in other provinces.
The Ontario government has paid a combined $3 million for two Gray Cups in Hamilton – one in 2021 and one scheduled for next year.
The Government of Saskatchewan’s tourism crown corporation offered $3 million as part of the bid that landed this year’s final in Regina.
Stefanson said Manitoba is offering more money in part because more teams are interested in hosting the championship. The bid is for the 2024 or 2025 Gray Cup to improve the odds of landing one.
« Obviously (it’s) just more competitive as we go, inflationary pressures and so on, » Stefanson said.
It’s unclear when league officials will make a decision on the offer.
The league has not announced a host city beyond Hamilton in 2023.
On the field, the Bombers have continued to dominate this season. The club clinched first place in the CFL West Division last weekend with a 48-11 victory over the Edmonton Elks.
Manitoba’s financial assistance comes at a time when the provincial government continues to struggle with deficits.
The province has recorded red ink every year since 2009, with the exception of the 2019-20 fiscal year. For the fiscal year ending next March, the deficit is projected at $202 million.
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