Halifax may be the safest bet for a Canadian Football League expansion franchise because of its larger population and business community, according to a marketing expert.
Mark Cohon, the CFL commissioner, said this week in Regina the league is open to eastern expansion. During an interview in Regina, the commissioner pointed directly to Halifax, Moncton and Quebec City as potential markets.
Andre Richelieu, a professor in sports marketing at Laval University in Quebec, said he isn't sure Moncton could support a full-time team.
Richelieu said given the choice between the three eastern cities, he thinks Halifax is the safer bet for the CFL if it is looking for long-term sustainability.
"You need a strong team if it ever arrives in the Maritimes and I would say that Halifax — because of the stronger population, stronger corporate presence — would be a better fit than Quebec City," he said.
Richelieu said it's one thing to attract fans for an annual game in the fall, but quite another to fill seats every second week for four or five months of the year.
Moncton has hosted two regular season CFL games but the league skipped the New Brunswick city in 2012 because of the focus on the 100th Grey Cup celebration.
Cohon said the league's 2013 schedule will be out soon and hinted Moncton would play host to another game.
The first CFL game was a sellout at the University of Moncton stadium. The second game, however, only sold 97 per cent of the stadium’s 21,000 seats.
Cities would need suitable stadium
Cohon said this week that a new stadium would be required in any of the three cities.
The CFL games are held at the University of Moncton’s stadium, which opened in 2010 when it hosted the IAAF world junior track championships.
The Moncton stadium will also be one of the Canadian stadiums that will hold games during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.
Even though that stadium cost $20 million, the CFL commissioner said the Moncton stadium would likely need $100 million in upgrades so it could meet the league’s standards.
Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc said he realizes it would cost a lot of money to upgrade the stadium if the city becomes a permanent home to a CFL team.
"It will require investment from people and businesses in order to make it a reality so that is still a bit of a way down the road before we ever get to consideration of that," he said.
In 2012, Halifax withdrew its bid to host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup as it put a stadium project on hold.
Other Canadian cities are putting up a significant amount of money on new stadiums for their CFL teams.
The Hamilton Tiger Cats will be moving into a new $147.5-million stadium, which is replacing Ivor Wynne stadium. The new stadium will have 22,500 fixed seats, but will be able to hold nearly 40,000 with temporary seats placed on the sidelines and end zones for special events.
A new CFL stadium in Winnipeg was budgeted to cost $190 million.
In Saskatchewan, the Roughriders are planning to move into a $278-million stadium in 2017.
To pay for the 33,000-seat stadium, the City of Regina will contribute $73 million to the project, another $80 million will come from the province and $25 million from the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Regina will also borrow $100 million from the province.