Nova Scotia

Halifax asked to fund up to 20% of proposed CFL stadium

Halifax municipal officials have made public a proposal that will cost up to $110 million for a stadium to house a Canadian Football League team on the site of a former military housing park.

'If we can have a stadium with the right cost, it's worth looking at,' says Halifax mayor

An artist's rendition of the Canadian Football League stadium proposed for Halifax. (Schooners Sports and Entertainment)

Halifax municipal officials have made public a proposal for a stadium costing up $110 million to house a Canadian Football League team on the site of a former military housing park.

Schooner Sports and Entertainment, the consortium that wants to bring a CFL team to the Halifax area, is seeking municipal and provincial funding to build a 24,000-seat complex in Dartmouth's Shannon Park by 2022.

The group's proposal, which was released Thursday, says it will seek a 30-year loan from a commercial finance company for the construction and to buy the land, but will need government help to cover loan payments of up to $6 million a year.

The 430-page proposal answered some of the questions posed by the city, but it has also prompted more, says Bedford  Coun. Tim Outhit.

"For example, what infrastructure would be required," he said. "I mean you could easily have another $50 to $100 million dollars of expenses, such as roads, ferry terminals, additional ferries, this sort of thing if the stadium was to be built in Shannon Park."

Additional levies for hotels, car rentals proposed

The group wants the province to increase its hotel levy from two to four per cent and create a car rental levy to generate $3 million to $4 million a year. It also wants a municipal contribution of between 15 and 20 per cent of the costs.

Mayor Mike Savage said the proposal would have to be analyzed by municipal staff before he could make any judgment. He acknowledged the issue has been polarizing.

"So there's a lot of people who want a stadium with any cost. There's a lot of people that don't want a stadium at any cost. I say if we can have a stadium with the right cost, it's worth looking at. We have to analyze that."

It isn't uncommon for the municipality to invest money in sports facilities, he said.

"We spent $40 million-$50 million on rinks. We spent over $30 million refurbishing the Dartmouth Sportsplex. And these are good investments. The stadium may or may not be another one like that."

The proposal includes a mixed residential and commercial area surrounding the stadium. (Schooner Sports and Entertainment)

But he was against additional levies to hotel and car rentals.

"I don't think that that is a revenue that has no impact because it does have an impact on business here. You can't say this doesn't affect the current taxpayer. Nothing is for free."

The proposal was delivered to municipal officials in late August. City CAO Jacques Dubé said Thursday he will not comment on the proposal until a full analysis is completed, which won't happen until early next year.

Regional council has not voted on the proposal.

Multiple funding options put forth

The complex would contain a 12,000-seat community arena on its west side for local sports, such as soccer, rugby and lacrosse, and would have an inflatable roof.

A "semi-permanent" bleacher seating structure would be on the east side, to bring the facility from "community" to "CFL grade."

The community facility would be "open over 300 days a year for community recreational use with more than 1,500 hours and 25 weeks guaranteed for youth sport and school athletics," the group said in its proposal.

The complex would have a 400-space parking lot available to the municipality when football games are not being played.

A community sports arena would have an inflatable dome. (Schooner Sports and Entertainment)

In terms of municipal money, options put forth by the group include:

  • An annual $2-million cash commitment from the Halifax Regional Municipality to the project's financier. That amount would be offset by a ticket surcharge.
  • An upfront cash payment of $15 million to $20 million, or 15-20 per cent of the project cost.
  • A smaller upfront cash payment of the above amount, around five per cent of the total project cost, or $6 million, and the remainder in annual contributions, about $600,000 per year over 30 years.
  • The municipality, and possibly other levels of government, would guarantee the loan.
  • A sliding scale of committed cash payments. "This option would see HRM not putting any cash out initially but committing to funding an annual amount that could increase or decrease based on the Provincial Payments received in any given year."

Outhit said the funding options were "interesting," adding he was against guaranteeing a loan for the project.

Savage said taxes from development in the area surrounding the stadium could conceivably pay for its costs.

The plan also includes a neighbourhood of mixed residential and commercial properties on the six-hectare site.

Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation, is charged with redeveloping Shannon Park and currently controls the land where the stadium would be built.

Economic benefits 'just don't materialize'

Montreal sports economist Moshe Lander doesn't agree with using public funds to build football stadiums.

"To me, it's unreasonable. Study after study shows that the economic benefits that are promised from stadium development just don't materialize," he said in a Radio-Canada interview.

"If [HRM] is going to put forth any sort of public funding into the stadium, they have to recognize that they're just not going to get that money back or at least, if they're going to get it back, it's going to be a longer time frame. And it's not going to be with the same sort of return on investment that they can get elsewhere."

He said there shouldn't be a need for public funds if a stadium is financially feasible.

"If it's really such an economic benefit, I would expect that [consortium] would happily put up their own money or that local businesses would happily put up their own money to be associated with such a financial money spinner."

The CFL support "is almost a given," Lander said.

"Once they get that funding, there'll be an announcement very quickly after that saying that yes the Schooners will go ahead. We'll see them play in about three to five years."

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With files from Paul Legere/Radio-Canada and Pam Berman/CBC

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