Halifax council will consider today a new report on a proposed 24,000-seat stadium, the pivotal component of a bid to land a Canadian Football League team for the East Coast’s largest city.
Maritime Football Limited Partnership, a group that includes business executives and former owners of an NHL team, is in the final stages of securing a conditional CFL expansion franchise.
The group has proposed Shannon Park, a 38-hectare swath of land on the east side of Halifax harbour formerly used by the Department of Defence for housing, as the preferred location for the multi-purpose stadium.
An urban planning expert says the discussion is bound to be polarizing for the community, with costly stadium projects often generating vigorous public debate.
Maritime Football is in talks with Canada Lands Company to buy up to eight hectares of land for the stadium, a parking structure and “associated uses,” the staff report says.
The new football team would be the anchor tenant of the stadium, which comes with an estimated price tag of up to $190 million.
However, some of that cost is expected to be covered by public dollars, with the city staff report calling the province’s participation as a funding partner “essential.”
The report recommends a thorough review of Maritime Football’s business case, as well as changes to the city’s charter to potentially allow for a special tax arrangement and assist with debt financing of the project, pending the outcome of the business case analysis.
The report also recommends engaging with the province on “new and incremental sources of revenue,” such as increasing the hotel marketing levy or creating a new car rental tax.
Jino Distasio, director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, says large projects like stadiums are often polarizing.
“They draw a tremendous amount of public interest and often that interest can be polarizing with either very big supporters or those who are vehemently against any kind of public dollars flowing into what’s seen as the pockets of rich and wealthy owners,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon to have a vigorous debate.”
He pointed to controversy in Winnipeg over the Investors Group Field stadium. Earlier this year, the University of Manitoba said it will likely not recover more than $100 million owed from a loan to build the project, leaving the province to cover the shortfall.
“The outcome here is still mixed,” Distasio said of Winnipeg’s stadium. “I think the vast majority of people still appreciate that we have a wonderful new stadium but it has come with a price tag that we weren’t necessarily prepared for from the beginning.”
He added: “Careful financial planning and oversight is absolutely critical.”