Fate of Halifax CFL stadium bid to be decided by regional council

Anthony LeBlanc, Founding Partner, Schooners Sports and Entertainment, Randy Ambrosie, CFL commissioner, and Greg Turner, Councillor-at-Large and Deputy Mayor of the City of Moncton pose for a photo at a press conference in Moncton, N.B. (Ron Ward/CP)

HALIFAX — The fate of a private group’s bid to bring CFL football to Halifax could be decided today by regional council.

Council will consider a staff report on a proposal by Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE) to build a $110-million, 24,000-seat stadium at a site in Shannon Park.

The facility would be constructed on land near the city’s MacKay bridge that was formerly used for military housing.

The staff report rejects the Shannon Park site, but recommends moving ahead with a one-time payment of $20-million for a facility elsewhere in the city.

The document says the proposed site is severely encumbered by a CN rail line and poor transportation access, meaning the municipality would likely need to invest in a new ferry terminal nearby and three new ferries, adding tens of millions of dollars in costs.

Council will consider options that include amending staff’s proposal, directing staff to further study the Shannon Park site, or turning down the staff recommendation and declining the request to support the stadium project.

In October, SSE’s proposal narrowly averted being killed outright after council voted nine to eight to proceed with further study, though the deadline for staff to conduct it was moved from next spring to a council meeting this December.

In response to the close call, the business group revised its proposal last month, saying the changes would reduce the risk to the municipality through an option for a new stadium ownership model.

SSE said it would contribute tens of millions of dollars towards stadium construction, fund all ongoing capital expenses, be responsible for all operational expenses regardless of who owns the stadium, repay the municipality’s full annual contribution and share the profits from a ticket surcharge with the city.

The original proposal outlined various stadium funding options, including one in which the municipality would make an upfront payment of 15 to 20 per cent of the project’s cost. There would also be annual payments of $2 million with the expectation of the money being recovered through a $10 ticket surcharge.

Despite its reservations, the staff report notes that a partnership with the private sector offers a chance to build a stadium where the private partner carries the majority of the cost and the risk.

The report recommends the city take no ownership in the stadium, make no loan guarantee and not cover ongoing capital or maintenance costs.

It says SSE has asked for $41-million to $79-million to help fund the project.

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