Canadian Manufacturing

Winnipeg manufactures business case for Jets

Stronger economy and job outlook could bring the NHL back to Winnipeg



WINNIPEG—A thriving Manitoban economy with a promising jobs outlook suggests the province is well on its way to full-recovery mode, an RBC report suggests.

But, the prairie province could also be on the verge of another comeback driven by its manufacturing sector: the return of NHL hockey.

While the idea is speculative, the outlook is promising because the province is stepping up to answer one of the NHL’s main concerns: can it financially support a team?

Manitoba’s economy is expected to grow by 2.3 per cent this year, and jump another 3.2 per cent in 2012. It also created 3,400 jobs in February, bringing the new jobs added in 2010 to 13,000.

Growth in its manufacturing sector has brought the sector’s job total to 73,000—more than making up for the 10,000 it lost during the financial crisis. Manitoba is also home to Canada’s lowest provincial unemployment rate, falling to 5.3 per cent in 2010 from 5.5 per cent in 2009.

The province has committed to a highway re-construction program that will give Highway 10 a 15 kilometer face-lift by replacing older concrete to increase loads capacity and improve safety.

The feds have already invested more than $165 million for projects along the province’s major north-south and east-west trading corridors.

Total road-improvement investments have topped $350 million.

And, although getting excited about hockey’s return to Winnipeg is premature, Manitoba’s growing economy can’t hurt its chances.

The main concern, it seems at least, is major uncertainty around the city’s ability to financially support an NHL team.

While it would be the smallest Canadian NHL market with a population of about 630,000, city officials expect metropolitan Winnipeg to grow by about 40,000 people over the next five years in what could be a direct co-relation to improved economic conditions.

The NHL’s presence in Canada is justified because three of six Canadian teams are the highest earning in the league, led by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are worth just over $500 million, according to Forbes.

Winnipeg is only smaller than Edmonton, Canada’s lowest earning NHL team, by about 100,000.

The Oilers, however, still managed to earn $183 million in revenues last year, ranking 20th in league wealth.

The Phoenix Coyotes earned $134 million – the lowest in the league, according to Forbes. CBC Sports reports the team lost between $20 million and $25 million during the 2009-2010 season.

CBC has reported that leaders of the Winnpeg team have projected annual revenues of around $102 million $45 million in ticket sales (based on an average ticket price $75), $19 million from broadcast rights, $15 million in merchandising, $10 million from luxury box sales at the MTS Centre, and $13 million from revenue-sharing with the NHL.

No one has truly focused on the fact that the city could support a team. But, the public will never really know the intentions of the NHL until a decision has finally been reached.

And, unfortunately, we’ll never really know the secrets behind the debate.

One thing is for sure, from an economic stand-point, the proof is there: Winnipeg could support a team. The economy is growing faster there than anywhere else in Canada, even those where NHL teams thrive.

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