Commissioner says ‘stars seemed to have aligned’ for new Halifax CFL bid

Keith Doucette, Canadian Press

CFL fans in Halifax have been told the league is serious about establishing a coast-to-coast footprint, although there is no announcement imminent on a franchise for the East Coast’s largest city.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Halifax bid proponents Bruce Bowser and Anthony LeBlanc told a packed hotel ballroom Friday they are maintaining a methodical approach to ultimately landing a team.

Ambrosie assured the largely enthusiastic audience at his commissioner’s “town hall” that the league is excited about the prospect after a previous attempt in the 1980s was scuttled because of the failure to land a stadium.

“I feel like it is different this time,” said Ambrosie. “I just think the stars seemed to have aligned well for us to take a crack at getting this in. And I don’t think we have a completed CFL until we have this franchise in place – it’s like the national railroad, you just aren’t done until you’re done.”

LeBlanc said steady work is continuing on what he described as a “thoughtful approach.”

“It’s no secret that we are having in depth discussions at Halifax Regional Municipality, in depth discussions with the province,” said LeBlanc. “My hope and expectation is sometime within the next couple of months we will have something substantive to talk to you about.”

Although welcoming a potential CFL team as an “exciting opportunity,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has previously said the municipality wouldn’t be pushing the issue, so as not to put taxpayers at risk over the cost of building a stadium. Premier Stephen McNeil has also confirmed there have been meetings between provincial officials and the bid group, but offered few other details.

LeBlanc, who is the founding partner of the potential ownership group registered as Maritime Football Ltd., later told reporters that no financial commitments have been offered to date.

“One thing I can say that I’ve heard in particular from the mayor and the premier is it has to be private sector led. They are not saying that they won’t be involved in whatever way that will be, but it has to be private sector led.”

Ambrosie said the league is in “lockstep” with the bid group, and is working with them to advance business plans.

“But the big hurdle is the stadium,” he said. “We are not going to move too far and too fast and get ahead of ourselves, so that it really is the jumping off point to advance this to the ultimate launch of a football team here.”

There have also been questions about Atlantic Canada’s overall interest in supporting a team.

Both Ambrosie and the bid group said they were encouraged by Friday’s turnout in Halifax.

Ambrosie said the event is part of the league’s effort to establish more of a presence in the region, and the initiative did seem to have struck a chord with most fans at his town hall.

Evan McFatridge, who grew up in Newfoundland but is now living in the Halifax area, told the commissioner he is an NFL fan who is open to the idea of a East Coast CFL team.

“When you are stuck out here in the east I just don’t feel that connection to the CFL,” he said. “But if we had a team here … easy to get to and support, I’d go to the games and start buying some merchandise and watching more.”

But one attendee did buck the trend in the room, voicing concerns about the potential sinking of any public funds into a potential stadium project.

Afterwards, Travis Crowell said he had heard little from the bid group to allay those concerns.

“One thing I haven’t heard is much in the way of specifics,” Crowell said.

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47 Comments on Commissioner says ‘stars seemed to have aligned’ for new Halifax CFL bid

  1. Blackhawk89 // February 23, 2018 at 7:50 pm //

    Private sector will have to “lead the way” and this group has offered 0 of their own money so far. Maybe a stadium will materialize from the stars.

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  2. Well if Jihad Justin and his liberal party can write cheques of $10,000,000 to known and convicted killers of American military .

    I’m quite sure this group can give the City of Halifax – say $50,000,000 to promote their healthy ideals of Canadian unity through Sport and Culture Ministry

    • Dundas dude // February 23, 2018 at 11:44 pm //

      $50 million would not build a 25,000 seat CFL stadium and I would think a condition of Trudeau handing out this taxpayer cash, would be the recipient has to be a Liberal and the site would have to be in Quebec. After all, this is 2015!

  3. Not sure how THINGS GOT DONE in Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver where all those stadiums and or training areas and buildings were RENOVATED, REPLACED or REBUILT in the past 10 years or so but OBVIOUSLY there is a plan used in those CFL cities that can be used in Halifax. If there is a WILL there is a WAY.

    • Agreed Jim – I think there would be tremendous support on the East coast. Bring on the Halifax Citadel

    • Things got done in Ottawa because of OSEG and their re-development of the area around the stadium plus the guarantee of a soccer team.
      Hamilton only got done because of the Pan Am Games.
      Montreal only got done only because of McGill university and the city, the 21k soccer stadium – Saputo – was built and expanded privately because of the huge success of soccer in Montreal.
      Vancouver got done because of the Winter Olympics and a massive amount of taxpayers funding.
      ALL of the upgrades/new stadiums had existing CFL franchises.

      The region has already stated “zero financing by taxpayers” this private group has no funding for a stadium.
      Their plan probably crunches numbers using something like 24,0 00 at an average of $80 Plus another $20 per seat forconcessions etc

      There will be no stadium funding, no rich real estate developers stepping in to fund it.

      I think the CFL is hoping that this will happen and they can quietly forget about the lack of CFL interest in Toronto and the eventual folding of the Argos22

      • jon – you are right!
        Ambrosie knows it will never happen and it’s a great opportunity to not talk about Toronto.
        How on earth can CFL fans carry on and act like the CFL doesn’t have serious attendance problems in the biggest markets?
        Oh yes let’s talk about what a success the CFL will be in Halifax – but in the mean time 28,000 fans are flocking to BMO to watch the TFC but 13k for only 9 Argo games? 21k average in Montreal to watch the Impact but only 18k average for the Als, the Lions down to 18k while the Whitecaps averaging 21k.
        Wake up CFL, you are losing your audience, you aren’t attracting young people they don’t know the game, they don’t play it in schools anymore.
        If it’s failing in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver why even think about Halifax?

        • That’s why Ambrosie is talking so much about Halifax. He doesn’t have to talk about the problems elsewhere especially in Toronto.
          He knows that he has zero influence and no funding available and no stadium will be built there.

          • brian johnson // February 25, 2018 at 5:01 pm //

            Well said Jeff
            Yes the east cost is cfl people.
            So is the west and central Canada.
            200 million need for quality stadium. 5 million franchise fee, 50 million operating capital.
            Would a tiny little stadium work. NO. Come up big time or step aside a let other well to do cities have a chance.

      • Tailgate YYC // February 24, 2018 at 11:34 am //

        WOW!!! You know everything!!!

    • White Horse // February 24, 2018 at 12:22 pm //

      Edm Commonwealth Stadium was mostly gov’t funded for the Commonwealth Games. Calgary McMahon stadium is owned by the U of C. which is the provincial gov’t. If any refurbishment of McMahon is done it will be done by Alta Gov’t and CSEGroup. City of Calg is not involved in Stadium maintenance and events and payroll. Province of Alberta pays for all maintenance and upgrades.

  4. Without a stadium this will remain a pipe dream.

  5. It would be in everyone’s best interest to build a CFL team in Halifax. Living in Saskatchewan, I have never had any reason or desire to travel east of Montreal. A trip to Halifax for a Rider game would change that. Regina and Ottawa would be good examples of how to model a stadium.

    • Everyone’s best interest? LOL you mean yours?
      Tell the taxpayers of Halifax and Nova Scotia that it’s in their best interest to spend $250 MILLION on a stadium where they only play 9 games a year and no guarantees that they could sell 24k a game

      • Tailgate YYC // February 24, 2018 at 11:38 am //

        Yes Mr negative. Lots of speculation though. you and Jon should pool your negative thoughts and begin a protest. But your comments are just negative speculation.

    • brian johnson // February 25, 2018 at 5:07 pm //

      You award a franchise on merit not physical location.
      Franchise should add dollar value to other CFL teams.
      Check Vegas in NHL. Last thing the CFL needs is another anchor to pull. Ya! Halifax would be a big draw!! in other CFL cities?? Maybe in Fort Mac. Gee’s

  6. I’d love to see the Halifax Privateers join the league 🙂

  7. Gobluebruin // February 23, 2018 at 11:55 pm //

    Good news, the CFL needs a 10th team!

  8. Stue, you haven’t truly experienced Canada until you have experienced the East coast! Pull off your Rider Jersey for just once, pack some clothes and head on East. It is truly beautiful.

  9. Edward Leslie // February 24, 2018 at 4:12 am //

    They need to hit up big corporations with ties to the maritimes. Maybe Scotiabank could pay $50 million to have the naming rights to the stadium for 25 years. Thats just $2 million a year, small potatoes for a bank that makes billions in profits.
    Then companies like Sobeys, McGavins and Irving oil, etc could contribute $10-25 million each in exchange for big advertising signage. That would be about 50% of the cost right there.
    The city and province could then make $50 million interest free loans payable over 30 years. Tgat way they could say that they didn’t “Give away” money.
    The football team could put a $5 surcharge on each ticket to help pay back the yearly loans.
    There you go. Easy as pie. Now, like that wise Philosopher, Larry the Cable guy said, “GET ER DONE!!”

    • Edward – gee I wonder if this group realized that?
      Maybe you could tell them all about these east coast companies?
      You could also make a list of local companies in each CFL city and ask them to contribute to the CFL.

      Naming rights in places like Hamilton and Ottawa work out to less than $1 Million a year, good luck trying to get more money from CTV for the TV rights for another CFL team. Sobeys is across Canada and they don’t advertise currently at CFL games.

      Yes send them your ideas and let them know that the city and province can get a $50 MILLION loan…………….lol

      It’s not happenin bro keep dreamin

      • Robert Shmigelsky // February 24, 2018 at 12:48 pm //

        Sobeys is Safeway, which last I checked DID advertise at CFL games.

        • Tailgate YYC // February 25, 2018 at 11:28 am //

          You are correct Robert. they also sell tickets for the family fun zone.
          Don’t they also give away prizes during telecasts?
          Jim….maybe you should use your inside voice a little more.

    • brian johnson // February 25, 2018 at 5:12 pm //

      Or let out Franchise to a city that wants CFL and is in a economic boom. Sponsorship, money,place that people will actually support the team with 30,000 per game

  10. There were highly vocal naysayers who said the redblacks would fail (no fan interest, the location stunk, no corporate support, etc) – they were proven incorrect.
    There are highly vocal naysayers who say that a team in Atlantic Canada will fail…

  11. If the CFL, it’s owners and its fans believe a franchise in Halifax would enhance the overall value and experience of the game, I am sure a creative solution could be entertained such as a CFL trust with shares in the stadium or the capital component of a development initiative including a stadium open to interested investors. 2

  12. Tailgate YYC // February 24, 2018 at 11:42 am //

    WOW!! Frikken bitter whiner!!!

  13. Edward Leslie // February 24, 2018 at 11:59 am //

    Jim, I imagine that is exactly what the ownership group is doing. The city said that they may help, but private investment needs to lead the way in funding.
    Another idea could be to get fans to invest in the team by selling shares. There are lots of ideas for raising the $150-200 million to build a stadium. I’m sure all avenues are being explored.
    Ottawa, Winnipeg and Hamilton did it. So why can’t Nova Scotia? I don’t understand your cynical attitude. I never understand the people who cone on a site like this, which is dedicated to Canadian football, and diss the CFL. Maybe you’re one of those Soccer fans? If so, wouldn’t a new stadium benefit a possible soccer team as well?

  14. dangerdan21 // February 24, 2018 at 1:42 pm //

    This IMO won’t happen for 10 years
    Till there a Stadium and they know support will be there CFL will do nothing

  15. Really don’t see a difference between Ambrosie and Orridge. Both are just extensions, puppets if you will of the group that really run this league and run it very badly. Enter the CFL board of governors. Get rid of this band of fools, give control to a competent comishioner and watch this league grow.

    • Jim Fitzpatrick // February 25, 2018 at 10:54 am //

      So you’re saying get rid of the commissioner and the owners? Considering two teams are community owned that might be tough. How much money do you have to buy a team?
      By the way, all league commissioners are just figureheads of the owners of the teams in those leagues. While they do have power it is the owners who run the leagues.
      Silly comments such as yours aren’t meant to be heard outside your own man cave when you are alone.

  16. Five years from now the league will be a strong success in Halifax, and the trolls will have moved on to something else, if they haven’t died of bitterness in the meantime.

  17. OldBaldGuy // February 25, 2018 at 9:06 am //

    Wow…just wow…such a negative bunch of baloon poppers, I haven’t seen in a while. With something like this you need to dream a bit, then do your diligence. Ottawa did it methodically and properly and look at them now. If you hate the CFL…fine! Don’t watch. I Don’t see the NFL selling out these days either. The game is good. People enjoy themselves at those games and my guess is that the “Debbie Downers” here don’t go to them…perhaps engaging in the stunning real life world of fantasy football.

  18. Edward Leslie // February 25, 2018 at 10:43 am //

    OBG: Its mostly just Jim repeating his negativity over and over again.
    It used to be ,on TSN’s site and others, that you got the distinct impression Sportsnet people went on to attack the CFL because they thought it might be blocking Toronto’s NFL chances.
    But nowadays its always Soccer fans gabbing about how Soccer is better than the CFL. Like both can’t exist at the same time or something!
    I dont go on Soccer sites and trash MLS. It woukd be nice if the Soccer fans would just talk amongst themselves about the things that make Soccer great. The endless 1-0 games. The total lack of any kind of physical contact allowed, which puts it on a level with golf and ballet. The players rolling around on the field pretending to be hurt. The fans mindlessly singing indecipherable cheers to entertain themselves while waiting to watch a goal one day. The faux British affectations calling teams “F.C.” or calling the field “the pitch”,etc.

  19. My goodness talk about twisting someone’s comments. I did not in any way refer to individual team ownership. You saw fit to throw that in. I did refer to the league board of governors, an entirely different group. Just so you know three teams are community owned not two. How much money do I have to buy a team??? Where in the hell did that come from??? A complete fabrication. And then the snotty insult at the end. What a dope!!!

  20. Mosaic was 80 million from the province, 73 million from the city of Regina and 100 million dollar interest free loan. The rest was from naming rights, the Riders and the private sector. Molson paid a ton to get the beer rights. The budget was 278. I think it was just shy of 300. The stadium is truly spectacular.

    The stadium is something that can be used for high school and college football. It has hosted big name concerts and Valencia even made a stop to play the Cosmos.

    A stadium in Halifax could easily be done for 250 mil. The stadium is a luxury not a necessity, but I’m glad we built it. I would expect the private sector to kick in a lot more in Halifax than what happened in Regina. It’s rich people giving everyone something back they can enjoy. 80 to 100 from the private sector, 50 to 70 from the city and the rest from the province in the form of a loan payable from surcharges on tickets. The formula worked in Regina. I’m sure it could work in Halifax

    • bria johnson // February 25, 2018 at 5:52 pm //

      I’m sure it won’t. Offered a chance 20 years ago and equaled zero response. 10 years ago offered a chance, well zero, today a small chance will equal zero again. Time to move on to a place that actually wants a CFL team.

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