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Halifax stadium proponents amend plans, councillor not convinced


Proposed plan for Shannon Park Halifax Stadium. - Don Ellis Architecture
An artist's drawing of the stadium proposed for Shannon Park. - Don Ellis Architecture
HALIFAX, N.S. —

The proponents of a bid to bring the Canadian Football League and a community stadium to Halifax have amended their business plan.

“An HRM community stadium is a game-changer for the region,” Anthony LeBlanc, one of three founding partners of Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE), said in a news release.

“Our revised proposal takes this feedback into consideration and provides HRM with a community stadium proposal that is the best deal for HRM, and, in fact, better than any stadium jurisdiction in North America.”

The feedback that SSE had been dealing with was the concept that Halifax Regional Municipality would be accepting all the risks for a 24,000-seat community stadium project while the proponents enjoyed all the benefits.

The update to the business plan first submitted to Jacques Dube, chief administrative officer of HRM, and staff more than two months ago, is intended to alleviate the sense of risk that municipal councillors feel accompanies the project.

SSE vows to contribute tens of millions of dollars directly to the stadium construction, which will fall in the $130-million range, and to fund ongoing capital expense and assume all operational costs. SSE says it will share excess ticket surcharge profits, forecast to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue.

Tim Outhit (Bedford-Wentworth) hasn’t seen the amendments to the plan but he is one of several regional councillors who met with LeBlanc while he was in town this week. 

“Where is this on the priority scale,” Outhit asked, saying concerns about providing transportation and other infrastructure from scratch in the proposed Shannon Park site and a loan guarantee remain primary concerns.

Outhit said a huge factor is dependency on team success for a return on investment.

“We really don’t know if the team is going to be successful and we really don’t know if it is going to be successful long term,” Outhit said. “If the team isn’t selling tickets, HRM isn’t going to get revenue from ticket sales.”

And if the franchise fails, what happens to the stadium, he said.

Outhit said he can’t see the provincial Liberal government wanting to bring in two new taxes on hotel rooms and car rentals to support a stadium. 

“Without the provincial revenue, this thing will never fly.”

SSE says the project will create thousands of jobs during the construction phase and millions of dollars in tax revenues.

LeBlanc has said SSE does not insist on owning the facility and will welcome a stadium ownership model that is acceptable to HRM. The municipality will be in full control of what will constitute the tax increment financing (TIF) districts proposed to be created around the stadium area in Shannon Park.

SSE is pitching the stadium as much more than a CFL facility, as a community stadium that will include an inflatable winter sports dome over the field to accommodate 300-plus days of community sport and recreation use each year.

Outhit said he was always in favour of a smaller 10,000- to 12,000-seat community stadium owned by HRM that a professional franchise could expand, if necessary, on their dime. With transit costs, the need for a new police station and libraries and other unbudgeted expenses begging for HRM funding, Outhit is not convinced of the need for a stadium.

“These are needs versus wants,” he said. “I would say it’s (stadium) a want and it would certainly be nice to have but I struggle to see it as a necessity.”

The SSE amended plan envisions the stadium hosting 10 CFL games a year, a couple of major stadium concerts, a Grey Cup every decade and the potential to host a National Hockey League outdoor classic game.

Dube and staff will bring an update of their assessment of the SSE plan, presumably including the latest amendments, to council in early December.

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