Fort Richmond citizens voice stadium concerns

Some Fort Richmond citizens are still fighting the construction of the new, multi-million dollar Blue Bombers stadium on the University of Manitoba campus.

Last month on Aug. 23, just over 200 concerned Fort Richmond citizens packed the Richmond Kings Community Centre to voice their displeasure with the ongoing plans.

The meeting was so well attended that the community centre was forced turn people away, leaving a small crowd waiting just outside in the parking lot.

Fordham Bay resident Joyce Bakun said her primary concerns about the stadium were increased traffic in the area, noise and the devaluation of real estate.

She also felt the community had not been engaged enough in the process of building the stadium, and that the U of M location was inappropriate considering it is an academic institution.

“It totally destroys the university’s academic facility. [ . . . ] This is a university, it should just be academic,” said Bakun.

The Fort Richmond Coalition, a group made up of five area residents, organized the meeting specifically to address the fact that many of the architectural features originally planned to reduce noise outside of the stadium had been altered or omitted in more recent renderings.

One omission specifically, the canopy that would cover the stadium playing field, creating a simulated high-rise ceiling, generated much ire within the U of M adjacent community.

Crestwin President and CEO Dan Edwards explained that costs have gone up considerably since the original conceptual design that included the canopy was completed.

“There’s been serious escalations in construction costs, and our current estimates say that it’s going to be higher than the amount of money we have provided to us,” said Edwards.

However, Edwards said that the canopy has not been eliminated from the design, but that Crestwin is still waiting for the estimates on the cost of completing the stadium.

Organizers of the meeting stated that they were are not anti-Bombers, but were simply anti-stadium.

Pamphlets were handed out during the meeting with the headline “This Isn’t the Stadium Creswin Promised.”

Representatives of the Fort Richmond Coalition also voiced concerns that they believed Creswin Properties, the David Asper owned real estate company responsible for spearheading the stadium project, had no real plan for event parking, pollution pickup or neighborhood security.

When asked for a response to the ongoing resistance of the Fort Richmond Coalition, a representative from the Creswin group told the Manitoban it was their intention to work with the Fort Richmond residents to “make sure that the stadium is a valued part of the community.”

“Developing a respectful, community minded and family-friendly venue is critical to us in order to ensure the new stadium is an amenity to the surrounding neighbourhood and the City of Winnipeg,” said Natalie van Rosmalen, marketing and communications manager for Crestwin Properties Inc.

The conflict between certain Fort Richmond residents and Creswin has also led many Winnipeggers to question just how bad issues of parking, pollution and noise are for those living in close proximity to the Bombers current home at the Canad Inns Stadium.

“The noise level was okay for us. We could hear cheering and the occasional announcement from the loud speaker,” said former West End resident Erica Ball.

“What bothered me the most was that on game nights there would be quite a few drunk people walking through the neighborhood afterward, but that’s mostly due to the fact that we were on the way back downtown and close to Portage. I don’t see that being a problem at the new place.”

Ball resided a distance of approximately one kilometre from Canad Inns Stadium, the same approximate distance from the current University Stadium to the closest residential street in the Fort Richmond area.

She explained that she moved into the West End neighbourhood knowing about the stadium and the potential problems living near it could cause.

“That being said, if I was used to living in a quiet suburb and then a stadium was built, I’m not sure how I would feel, but there aren’t that many games in a season and I don’t think that the noise is unpleasant enough to ruin a family barbecue or an evening in the yard.”

The stadium is currently slated to be ready for the start of 2012 football season.