Nova Scotia

Province shouldn't help pick up tab for Halifax stadium, says sports economist

Moshe Lander, a sports economist at Concordia University in Montreal, says the economics have always been bad for public money on stadium financing, so the Nova Scotia government shouldn't help pay for a stadium in Halifax.

'The economics have always been bad for public money on stadium financing,' says Moshe Lander

Halifax regional council voted 10-7 Tuesday in favour of a staff report that supports a $20-million contribution to a stadium, but only if a long list of conditions are met. (Schooners Sports and Entertainment)

Nova Scotia's provincial government should not get involved in financing any part of a CFL stadium proposal for Halifax, says a sports economist at Concordia University in Montreal.

"The economics have always been bad for public money on stadium financing," Moshe Lander told CBC Nova Scotia News at 6 on Wednesday.

Professional sports teams often look for public money to help build stadiums and arenas, arguing the investment will pay for itself through economic spinoffs. However, research has found they don't have a meaningful impact on income levels or job numbers.

Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE), the group that wants to bring a Canadian Football League to Halifax, is looking to get funding from the municipality and the province to build a complex in Shannon Park by 2022.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council voted to allow a stadium proposal to proceed. The vote supported a $20-million contribution, but only if a long list of conditions are met. The staff report council voted on rejected Shannon Park as a suitable site for a stadium.

Moshe Lander is a sports economist at Concordia University. (CBC)

On Wednesday, Premier Stephen McNeil said Nova Scotia "should be grateful a national league of any kind is looking at our province."

He's not ruling anything out just yet.

"I think it would be irresponsible of me to say no. We have a Canadian league looking at our city, our province, we need to look at this from all sides and is there a way for the province to participate?" McNeil said.

In July 2018, McNeil said he would wait for a proposal from the proponents, but he ruled out cutting a cheque.

"If you have another option, you have a new idea of how I can help, feel free to come and ask," he said at the time. "But don't come in and expect I'm going to write you a cheque."

On Wednesday, McNeil said any stadium would need to be viable for itself. He points out there are only nine regular-season home games in the CFL.

"I'd love to see a stadium that can house not only the football games, the outdoor concerts, the activities that I think major cities should aspire to," McNeil said. "And if it's going to happen on the East Coast of Canada, it should happen here."

Nova Scotia's premier is remaining non-committal when it comes to provincial help for a business group trying to build a stadium to house a potential CFL franchise in Halifax, but his language has softened compared to a year ago. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Lander said if a stadium is built, the first choice should be downtown, followed by being close to the downtown or in an area where a lot of people live and work.

"The stadiums that tend to work best are part of the neighbourhood. It's not something like in the 1960s and 1970s where you would build a stadium on the outskirts of town," he said.

Proponents 'thrilled' by council's vote

When Halifax voted for the stadium proposal to proceed with conditions, SSE partner Anthony LeBlanc said his group was "thrilled."

Lander said he has no idea why LeBlanc would be happy about the vote, considering SSE had originally proposed a stadium that would cost close to $200 million and they've kept having to downsize it.

"I haven't understood a step of what he's done along the way here. So if he's happy, my guess is that's probably the wrong reaction," he said.

With files from Tom Murphy and Jean Laroche

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