Does True North own the MTS Center?
How is the $40 million public funds factored into the ownership? Was that considered a gift?
This could/should be a subject for a new thread. There is so much misinformation and conspiratorial thinking on this board. Chipman is not nearly as powerful as people seem to think. He doesn't own a majority of the MTS Centre, nowhere near. According to Manitoba Business
, he holds 33% of the equity of the General Partnership of True North and that obviously doesn't include the holdings of the many Limited Partners who would be the same people who would purchase the Jets. There is no way Chipman can block the return of the Jets if the business community in Winnipeg plans to purchase a team given the ownership structure. Stop assuming Chipman has way more power than he actually has...www.manitobabusinessmagazine.com/Novembercover04.shtml
The Puck Drops Here
How The New Brick Rink Came To Be
The roar of the fans will erupt November 17 when the puck drops for the first hockey game ever in the history-making MTS Centre. Mark Chipman will likely be in a suite far above the ice reflecting on his seven years of hard work to make this moment happen. Or he may be sitting in the crowd. Wherever he may be on the momentous night, he will remember it for the rest of his life.
As the key player
behind the $133 million project, Chipman doesn't suffer from self-centeredness for what he has accomplished for his city."It took a lot of people to get this done. It's a credit to them all,"
he says. "What I can claim responsibility for is pulling a group of people together
and then to a certain extent getting out of their way and helping when they needed my skills." Typical Mark Chipman. When the limelight comes his way, he heads for cover.
Craddling his white hard hat on his arm, his constant companion for two years, he reflects on the red brick building that fills a square block of real estate. "It's been a bit of a fog. I can't remember all the things that have gone on," he says. "I'll tell you, though, it has been quite an experience to watch this building grow. That includes those steelworkers walking down girders. Nothing could get me up there."Chipman has had his own high wire act chairing the many interests of investors who stepped up large for Winnipeg's future as a city.
He has also represented the people of this province in giving them something special in the centre of urban decay which is now starting to slowly dissipate with new buildings coming to downtown.
Mark says, "This project represents some really deeply seeded feelings amongst a broad section of our business community that feels that Winnipeg has a chance to get some traction. It think it was Sandy Riley who said Winnipeg is a collective act of will, that we've willed our way to where we are."
The arena is a state-of-the-art entertainment complex and A-1 for hockey with NHL quality team dressing rooms, sauna, spacious workout/therapy room for the players and a player relaxation lounge with a large screen television.
When projects of this kind come to fruition you need the big people on your side
who believe in what's being done. On the list are heavy hitters who are in the category of Limited Partners: Art DeFehr; Bob Silver; Randy Moffat; Hartley Richardson; Leonard Asper; Randy Moffat; Bob Silver; Sandy Riley; Jim Richardson Jr.; George Sigurdson; Derek Johannson; Lawrie Pollard; Ross Robinson; Maple Leaf Construction; National Leasing; Jim Burns; Power Corporation; James Richardson & Sons. General Partners Osmington Inc, Toronto; Crocus Investments; Megill-Stevenson. Megill- Stephenson, the Chipman family business, holds 33 per cent of True North Sports and Entertainment's general partner which owns and operates the MTS Centre and the Manitoba Moose Hockey Club.Two key players in debt financing the deal are Al Morin , President and CEO of Assiniboine Credit Union and Sherman Kreiner, CEO of Crocus Investments.
Kreiner's involvement was substantial as a result of the money Crocus Investments has in the Moose hockey franchise. He is a low-keyed, articulate MBA with a ton of experience in structuring deals.
Kreiner says, "After working with Mark under some early adverse conditions, I found him to show a high level of personal integrity, especially when the public debate on the project got vocal."
In fact, Chipman received personal email threats at the height of the objection over knocking Eaton's down.
"I was surprised by the reaction, but people were passionate about The Eaton's building," he says.
In retrospect, it seems remarkable that a vocal minority would cling to a drab monument to retail failure. The statue of Timothy Eaton, self-glorification at its finest, will be included in the new building as a gesture of appreciation for Eaton's retail history here.
Four years have slipped away as progress of the project, mostly financed locally, advanced at a high rate of speed.
Kreiner says, "We had offers of financing from outside the province, but we favored having most of the money from here. We were very pleased when Al Morin and Assiniboine Credit Union, came on board as the lead financier to set up the syndication. That was a significant moment in the life of this project, which I believed was good for them."
On his side Morin is extremely happy with the deal he was able to engineer.
"I had a discussion with Sherman over lunch four years ago about the possibility of backing the project. He wanted it to be a community project with financing from here. We were interested, for sure, but we had a long, long assessment of the project both from our people and others outside. We really went over it and in the end, we were able to syndicate the $60 million mortgage over 20 credit unions both in Manitoba and Saskatchewan," Morin says.
A huge vote of confidence and the largest ever undertaken in the history of credit unions.
Morin says, "The mortgage was based on the integrity of the people involved. Talking specifically about Mark Chipman, he has shown himself as a man of honesty and integrity. You always know where you stand with him." He says as a result of the quality of all the people involved, the project has come in on time and on budget.
"I am very proud to be associated with the building. Specifically because our name is at centre ice," Morin says. "I'll be there on opening night."
To determine why Mark Chipman pursued this project one only has to look back a generation in the Chipman family. Mark's father, Robert Chipman, chairman of the family business interests, played goal in the 1940s for a junior A team, The Winnipeg Rangers - with no mask. Not many men present themselves as willing targets for frozen rubber. He loves the game.
It was in 1995 that he and Mark were involved in the drive to save the Winnipeg Jets. When that failed Winnipeg sagged. Immediately on the heels of that grim business loss, The Chipmans bought an International Hockey League team so the province could have the next best thing to the National Hockey League.
That league in turn merged with the America League, a spawning bed for young professionals on their way to the NHL and veterans who toil at the 'almost NHL' calibre level. At salaries of $100,000 or higher their brand of hockey is fast skating and hard checking. Good hockey without the NHL circus of egos.
The Chipmans started talking of a new entertainment complex in 1997 to replace the aging Winnipeg arena. Was Chipman's drive accelerated as a hockey team owner to play in a more modern rink?
Mark says, "I can tell you honestly that we didn't need this building to enhance our investment in our hockey team. We could have continued to play at the Winnipeg Arena, there are far worse facilities in North America," Mark says.
The motivation of the project, Chipman maintains, was city development.
"It was a chance to be a part of an exciting project and you wanted to take a crack at it, if you could," he says.
He saw a new arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and one in Cleveland, Ohio, which he felt were similar to what could be done here.
"They were part of a much broader development scheme. Cleveland is one of the great downtown redevelopments in North America. There is a real vibrancy in downtown Cleveland," he says.
Grand Rapids is similar to Winnipeg and the community came together to reclaim their downtown.
"That's where the idea was sewn in the ground. That said, we were cautious in 1996-97, the first year of the Moose, about wading in with the idea of a new building because of the failed attempts to save the NHL franchise," he says. "We thought people would be negative to the idea."
There are other signs of leadership who are skating alongside Chipman's vision. Mark says, "I remember distinctly seeing Premier Gary Doer in a television interview discussing the project. I don't remember what he said exactly, but it was something like - 'let's get it done' and you could see he was annoyed at the delays."
Mark says the premier's resolve behind the scenes was strong.
Major influences in monitoring the project have been Jim Ludlow, the CEO of True North Sports and Entertainment and Mark's older brother Jeoff.
"Both Jeoff and Jim have been directly involved in this building from day one, and I credit them for the smooth job which is on time and on budget," Mark says.
The cost of the project, he says was two thirds of the costs of similar projects. This is because of the immense amount of time invested in scrutinizing every part of the original design by Sink Combs Detleffs of Denver with No. 10 Architectural Group.
Ironically, Manitoba Telecom's CEO, Bill Fraser, once a pro hockey prospect, claimed the naming rights to the building for his company, a huge plus, and a great business decision.
The athletic connection runs through the project. Mark, himself was an athlete. He played football at the University of North Dakota.
He says, "I was a walk on wide receiver. I played four years, rode the bench a lot - but it was great to be there," he says in a way, as if it was normal for a Canadian to make the line-up on a US football mad campus, which it isn't.
Mark received a law degree from the University of North Dakota and then moved to Florida to practice. In the meantime, his father was building the Birchwood Automotive Group into the largest seller of cars in Manitoba.
Mark returned from Florida in 1988 to join his father and brothers in the family business.
"We're from Winnipeg and we're going to be here for a long time so we want to be among the people, who, like others in the past are used to clawing their way up to accomplish projects," he says. "I like to think, this project is in that tradition."
This new brick hockey fortress will echo the cheering voices of thousands in its time. And the building will have its own personality which is more than bricks and glass. It's about pride and accomplishment.
It's vision when there is no blueprint. It's about leadership, when leadership is rare. It's about action rather than talk.
That's the way cities and lives are changed. In the end, the MTS Centre is an example of what can be done when people take risks, have faith, and pull together. Mark Chipman and all those who stood with him should be proud. MBM
( By Ritchie Gage)