HALIFAX - The mayor of Halifax and commissioner of the Canadian Football League are urging business and community leaders to think of a stadium in Halifax as more than just a home for a football team.
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, right, and Mayor Mike Savage take questions from the media.
âDonât just think about CFL, think about, is this a catalyst for bigger opportunity,â said CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon Monday in Halifax. âCould it be a center for sports excellence? How do you think about concerts? How do you think about other elements that put Halifax on the stage.â
Cohon and Mayor Mike Savage hosted several private meetings Monday with representatives of local and national businesses to discuss the prospects and gauge interest in a multi-use stadium.
Halifax regional council turned down a stadium proposal in 2012 that was linked to a potential bid to host the 2015 FIFA Womenâs World Cup, but Savage noted that was because no funding partners came to the table.
He said the question remains of whether Halifax could afford â and benefit from â a stadium with the right mix of private and public funding.
âA city our size, the center of the Atlantic provincesâŠwe should have a stadium,â he said. âAt the very least, we owe it to people to have that conversation.â
Savage said success would hinge on finding the right business model for Halifax, but noted thereâs enough fan base in the Atlantic region to support a team.
âHalifax has over 400,000 people, Regina has just over 200,000,â he said, referring to the immensely popular Saskatchewan Roughriders. âSaskatoon is just over four hours away, Moncton is less than three hours away. So do we have the fan base? I think we have the fan base.â
Cohon said the CFL can bring a variety of business models â including community ownership â to the table that didnât exist as recently as 10 years ago.
He cited the 40-acre Lansdowne Park project in Ottawa â which includes condos, retail and parklands as well as the home stadium of the Ottawa Redblacks â as a prime example of a sustainable public-private enterprise.
âIâm confident when we look at Ottawa today with the number of season ticket holders they hadâŠseparate from all the retail and other elements, that franchise will be a profitable franchise out of the gate,â he said.
Business leaders: show us the plan
Two business leaders in Halifax say the prospects for private investment in a multi-use are good â as long as the business case makes sense.
âI think weâve got credible business leaders here that, when thereâs a good business opportunity, they will put their money into it,â said Greater Halifax Partnership president Paul Kent.
HRM Mayor Mike Savage and CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon met with business and community leaders on Monday to discuss the possibility of a stadium and CFL franchise in Halifax.
Chamber of Commerce president Valerie Payn attended one of the meetings, and said thereâs certainly interest in a stadium that would provide recreation and entertainment opportunities for the broader community.
âWhen the CFL, who have a pretty successful franchise, show an interest in us, we should be interested,â she said. âHow could this work for us if thereâs an opportunity here?â
Kent said the discussion is complex, noting the merits of a stadium canât be evaluated by looking solely at tax revenues.
âThe stadiumâŠsupports economic development, but it doesnât drive it,â he said. âItâs really all about the other revenue streams, the revenue that comes from hotels and restaurants and other entertainment facilitiesâŠso we all have to have a look at the bigger picture.â
Payn said the time is right for the discussion, citing a new sense of optimism among HRMâs business community.
âI think thereâs different leadership, different vision,â she said. âThe mood has changed and I think thereâs aâŠfeeling of confidence that we can look at this together.â