From Winnipeg, a few stadium lessons for Halifax
Manitoba government has now written off $200M in loans to build new stadium for Winnipeg Blue Bombers
As Halifax begins to contemplate helping build a CFL stadium, a national advocacy group says Winnipeg has some hard lessons for any community thinking about financing such a project.
In September, the Manitoba government wrote off the second of two loans to build a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In total, $200 million has been added to the province's debt.
The situation was raised at the Oct. 30 meeting of Halifax regional council where a proposal to study a 24,000-seat stadium project at Shannon Park was debated.
"What went wrong in Winnipeg?" asked Coun. Tim Outhit. "And here in Halifax who would own the debt?"
Maritime Football Partnership wants to bring a CFL team to Halifax. Founding partner Anthony LeBlanc has said building a $190-million stadium will require help from the municipality, province and even federal government.
At last month's meeting, Halifax CAO Jacques Dubé assured councillors the municipality would not own the stadium and would not be responsible for the debt, but work on a recommended financial arrangement is just getting underway.
The financing arrangement for the Investors Group stadium in Winnipeg was overly complex, according to the Prairies director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Todd MacKay also points to the planned redevelopment of the old Winnipeg stadium, which so far has failed to get off the ground. The anchor tenant for that project, a Target store, pulled out. Taxes from the redevelopment were supposed to help pay for the new facility.
"The government should never have made these loans," said MacKay, "Here's my advice: If you're building a football stadium, football fans should be the ones paying for it. And I say that as a football fan."
Ownership of the Winnipeg stadium is shared between the city, the province, the University of Manitoba and a private company representing the football team.
MacKay believes there are alternatives to subsidizing megaprojects.
"The Montreal Alouettes play at McGill's stadium, they're not playing at a big cavernous stadium with all the bells and whistles," he said. "So there are options that don't force governments to choose between funding hospitals and funding football."
Halifax's review of the Shannon Park proposal is expected to be ready by the spring.