No amount of public support warrants public money for CFL stadium in Halifax: Economist

Taryn Grant, StarMetro Halifax

No amount of public support warrants using public money to build a football stadium, an economist says.

“I do support the idea of a CFL team in Halifax,” said Moshe Lander, economics professor at Concordia and Dalhousie Universities. “I think it’s good for the city, I think it’s good for Atlantic Canada, I think it’s good for the CFL.”

But, he said in an interview with the Star, “I very rarely have come across any publicly funded stadium that paid for itself.”

Forty-two per cent of those polled said they were very favourable or favourable about using public money to build a stadium, while 41 per cent were unfavourable or very unfavourable. Fifteen per cent were neither unfavourable nor favourable, and 2 per cent were unsure.

Pollster Rick Emberley of MQO research, which conducted the poll, was surprised by the split opinion.

“I honestly thought it would be a much lower level of interest,” he told the Star.

Still, Lander doesn’t think the interest was high enough.

“The fact is when you’re going to put up government dollars, that type of 41-42 (split) with 15 per cent undecided is not a clear mandate for using public dollars to fund the stadium,” he said.

“I’m never in favour of using public dollars to fund a stadium, regardless of the level of public support.”

Some municipal councillors agree: a gameplan based on throwing tax money at a CFL franchise won’t win.

“If it means increasing your taxes, I’m not interested in doing that,” Coun. Tony Mancini said in an interview. “If it means some tax breaks, if it means us doing some infrastructure work, I’m interested in that.”

Mancini also said he expected more people to express opposition.

“My gut feeling would have been stronger numbers against using taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Mancini thinks municipal involvement would be worthwhile if the plan included more than just a stadium. He referred to Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, which includes the 24,000-seat TD Place — home of the Ottawa Redblacks — as well as shops, restaurants, green spaces and courtyards.

“That Lansdowne approach interests me or excites me for Shannon Park because it may help to address some of our challenges when it comes to transportation,” said Mancini, whose district includes the Shannon Park area. “Expanding our transportation, Metro Transit — possibly even a third ferry coming into that area.”

Shannon Park was the most popular location in the Star’s poll, followed by Dartmouth Crossing. Unlike Lansdowne, which is owned by the City of Ottawa, Shannon Park is not owned by HRM.

“The challenge with Shannon Park,” Coun. Sam Austin said in an interview, “is we’ve just gone through a whole planning process to redevelop that as a mixed-use neighbourhood. And it’s owned by Canada Lands, so I’m not sure that that’ll come to pass.”

Lander, the economics professor, said that, even if the stadium were built entirely with private funds, a location in an outlying area like Shannon Park or Dartmouth Crossing could draw fewer fans — and produce a lower economic return — than somewhere more central.

“I don’t want to take some car — not even public transportation, ’cause you can’t even get out there — go watch a three-hour game, and then turn around like a lemming and get back in my car,” he said.

Building stadiums on the outskirts of a city is an antiquated model, Lander said. The modern way is to build it where the people already are.

“You want them to be able to come out of their office buildings at five o’clock in the afternoon on a nice sunny Halifax afternoon, be able to go grab a drink, go walk around for a bit, go to the game,” he said.

Austin and fellow councillor Tim Outhit both said public opinion as represented in the poll is consistent with what they’ve been hearing from residents.

“I’ve heard from people who are vehemently against and people who are really in support. So it rather fits what’s been coming in to me,” Austin said.

Outhit added that it’s hard to come down on either side, since council hasn’t received an official ask from potential franchisees.

“What I hear from people is they may get the vision of the stadium but the devil will be in the details,” Outhit said.

Last year, council heard from a private group interested in bringing a CFL team to the Atlantic region. The session was closed to the public, but Mancini said the group shared “their intention” without proposing a business plan or making an official bid for municipal dollars.

Council still doesn’t have a proposal, Austin said, but for him, “it would have to be a pretty darn good deal for me to see putting municipal money into it. This has to be something that the private sector leads.”

One person in support of an outdoor stadium in Halifax is Saint Mary’s Huskies football coach James Colzie III.

He believes a stadium and CFL team would be a great fit.

“It’s not just support for football, it’s support for the city,” he said in an interview.

Colzie hopes the Huskies would be able to use a stadium, should one ever get built, but knows that working out a partnership could be complicated.

“Obviously when you build a stadium you want to sell it out,” he said. “You bring in CFL fans and hopefully that leads to some new fans for the Huskies.”

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54 Comments on No amount of public support warrants public money for CFL stadium in Halifax: Economist

  1. Well there you have it – a pure ‘liberal’ opinion!

    Next city on the list – please

    • brian johnson // April 17, 2018 at 10:26 am //

      VERY well said agreed. Just a though!!!!
      How would a team in Halifax help the existing CFL teams?? Build a tiny little High school stadium with no financial backing. Would that help or set CFL backwards. Will they pay a huge franchise fee for this? No . Do they have investors? No.Do we need another anchor to pull in CFL? Maybe not.

    • You’ll never find an economist that will support anything that costs any amount of money exept the cost of his lame study !!!!

    • How is that a liberal opinion? he said – “I’m never in favour of using public dollars to fund a stadium, regardless of the level of public support.”
      A liberal would say “use public funding and deficits and debt it doesn’t matter, someone in the future will pay for it”
      A Conservative would say “show me your business plan and if it doesn’t cost taxpayers and it doesn’t raise taxes then let’s build it”

      • Comment Awaiting Censorship // April 18, 2018 at 2:24 pm //

        Wrong! A conservative would say that they are normally against using taxpayer money to fund private initiatives, but want to know how much of a bribe they are going to receive for supporting it.

        Conservatives love spending money. Providing that THEY get the benefit and that it is middle-class and lower taxpayers that have to pay for it.

  2. Rider Girl // April 17, 2018 at 9:31 am //

    Who is this goof he most likely rides a bic tow work. I will bet he was the fellow in the debating team in school. He has a hate for football players they used stuff in his locker in school.

    • greenenvy? // April 17, 2018 at 1:44 pm //

      Not likely. He tells everyone else to ride a bike to work to save the economy but don’t offend him by asking him to do the same.

  3. Edward Leslie // April 17, 2018 at 10:10 am //

    Here’s the thing, if you take a poll on just about anything, you won’t get a very high yes vote.
    I’ve seen it in one of our local papers.
    A big singer or rock group is coming to town. Are you excited and running out to buy a ticket?
    NO: 82% YES: 12% UNSURE or NO ANSWER: 6%.
    Is the Federal/ Provincial/ Civic Government doing a good job since being elected?
    NO: 48% YES 32% UNSURE or NO ANSWER:20%.
    As the one guy said, this is a good result. Having over 40% favourable shows people are getting on board.
    Many of the naysayers will come around too, if the football ownership group allay fears that the city won’t get stuck with paying everything. If they get some significant corporate support and raise funds themselves, plus get provincial funding as well, adding to 50% or more of the cost, the idea won’t
    seem so imposing.

    • I remember the poll last year before the Grey Cup.
      “as a Canadian, will you be watching the Grey Cup”
      Roughly 40 percent said they would, which would translate to around 20 MILLION viewers!!
      Yet around 3 million actually tuned in to watch it…………lol

      • Tailgate YYC // April 17, 2018 at 6:37 pm //

        Jeff, I believe it was up to 11 million and averaged 5 but you know trolling best.

        • Not to mention, that if 40% of the population is 20 million, then there are 15 Mill that must have immigrated in the last 24-48 hours.

  4. Sometimes reasons like civic pride and public will can override economic reasons. This is one of the times.

  5. If this were the case for NOT building a great entertainment multi use stadium then there would be virtually NONE in NORTH AMERICA. Way too much talk on why NOT to do it vs FINDING a way to build it. If the WILL to do it is GREATER by all parties involved it vs the naysayers it simply will get done. Too much talk and not enough action going on with this issue.

    • brian johnson // April 17, 2018 at 10:48 am //

      Well said and thanks. That is true.
      Build your stadium downtown for $250 million. When totally completed drop by CFL office with a cheque for 20 million and yes you will need your 52 million operating capital for year one in bank.
      Your in the big times. Very simple and easy.

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm //

      But as I stated in the “other” topic about the stadium issue. Taxpayers in the region are paying for the new $400 MILLION Convention Centre just opened last Sept.
      You can justify a Convention Centre, the conventions will bring in hundreds/thousand of out of town visitors every week. They stay in hotels, spend money in restaurants. The Convention centre can also be used for special events.
      The Metro Centre is used for rocke concerts etc, it seats 10k in the stands and another 3k on the floor.

      A CFL stadium will likely only be used for CFL games from June to Nov. The city has already approved the soccer stadium for the Wanderers.
      It’s not going to happen, unless a private consortium builds and funds it. Taxpayers will not contribute towards it..

  6. Paul Giannelia. This is the guy the proponents should be talking to. A new stadium and a team would be a HUGE boost to the economy, and if governments in that area are not prepared to shoulder the risk up front then they can pay back the benefits they reap after the fact, until the project is paid for. And they have shown they will do this, based on a pre agreed upon formula. They are VERY defeatist and risk averse in that part of the world when it comes to big projects, but they will agree to pay after the fact if the project is successful. See the Confederation Bridge and talk to Paul Giannelia.

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 2:09 pm //

      HOW is a CFL stadium a “HUGE” boost for the economy?
      The building of the $400 MILLION Convention Centre is a HUGE boost to the economy, conventions coming in most weeks, people spending money in hotels, restaurants and the casino.
      A CFL only stadium would be HUGE drain on the economy.

  7. Sixbeamers // April 17, 2018 at 11:10 am //

    Forbes Magazine: “Governments should never finance a stadium with public money as it is simply a subsidy to team owners and a few businesses that stand to benefit from the events held there.”

  8. most economists are overpaid bums that are wrong more times than they’re right about any projections, therefore their opinions are are mostly bogus. these are people purely wrapped up in numbers and not about any human element. they’d rather invest in the stock market than feed somebody. if governments want to know what people want they should just ask them and stop wasting money on economists and consultants. how quickly they all forget who put them there in the first place. funny how the ones that trash ideas meant for the average person are the ones that get the free box seats after the fact.

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 2:14 pm //

      At least economists can crunch their numbers and present it to joe public and we can make out own minds up.
      If the HRM approves a CFL stadium using taxpayers money, they will be thrown out of office next election.
      Taxpayers are weary after $400 MILLION for the new Convention Centre.
      I’m tired of people that live OUTSIDE of the region telling us how it’s a great idea to build a CFL stadium in Halifax……… it’s not your money it’s us taxpayers here.

      • economists couldn’t crunch a number if we crunched it for them, have you ever read an economist report, they’re always wrong!! if you read my post I said to ask the people, you seem to answer without reading!

  9. Let’s face it; Halifax is simply not big or strong enough to support a pro team. They won’t spend their own money on it, and their politicians aren’t strong enough to raise tax money to do so. Of course they would love for taxpayers elsewhere to give them a free stadium, but the reality is that this won’t happen if Haligonians don’t step up first. It’s a nice romantic idea, but Halifax is NOT an Ottawa or Hamilton, or even a Regina.

  10. sixbeamers // April 17, 2018 at 12:05 pm //

    Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton was entirely built with public money, using the Pan-American Games as a hook to justify the expenditure. Almost half — $69 million — of the cost was paid for by the federal government. Is there another major international sporting event in the future for Halifax? That might be the ticket to a taxpayer-subsidized stadium. Otherwise, the best bet might be a private equity real estate development play with the city and province paying for infrastructure costs and offering tax concessions. Whatever the formula used, construction of a new Halifax stadium has to make economic sense beyond providing a venue for just 10 CFL games (including preseason) a year. Taxpayers don’t countenance white elephants, as politicians well know.

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 2:58 pm //

      No international games coming up to justify spending that type of money. Halifax looked at hosting the Commonwealth Games, they backed out in the end because of the huge costs. The feds/province might contribute but it’s still a big cost to the region.
      Hamilton didn’t host the Pan Am games they only hosted the soccer. The Commonwealth Games would have meant Halifax hosting most of the events.
      Maybe the group wanting a CFL team can put together a business plan, but don’t expect any taxpayers funding.

  11. “I very rarely have come across any publicly funded stadium that paid for itself.”

    I doubt any publicly funded library, rec centre, hockey arena, park, playground, airport, convention centre, public housing or public transit infrastructure has paid for itself either. The reason governments invest in these things is not to turn a profit. They provide benefits to the citizens that the citizens are willing to support with tax dollars (or not).

    I agree that a stadium would be most successful in the downtown core. But where can you find available land in the downtown core? If it happens at Shannon Park, then the city (and other level of governments) would likely want to pony up public funds to take that asset and do some “city building”.

    The owners seem to want to go to a place like Bayers Lake business park.

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm //

      jhayman – you are correct, libraries, parks etc don’t make a profit and cost money to run but all members of the public use libraries, parks. Only a small percentage of the population, CFL fans, would benefit from a CFL stadium. Convention centres can make money and this one will, they bring in out of towners every week who spend money in hotels, restaurants and the casino.

      • That’s weird, can’t think of the last time I went to the library. Please don’t speak for me maritimejoe.

      • Not all members of the public use libraries, affordable housing, public transit, convention centres, hockey rinks, etc. That’s why I gave a wide range of things a city pays for

        Even if you don’t personally use a publicly funded facility, it does add value to your city. Having public parks makes your city more desirable even if you don’t ever visit them.

        Most city owned stadiums used by CFL teams are used by more than CFL teams. They are used by schools and community groups for sports. They are used for concerts. They host international events.

        There are benefits to having a professional sports team in your city – it gives your city national exposure, and invokes city pride. For the CFL, in particular, you can periodically host the Grey Cup, which brings real dollars to your city, and in the case of NS, province.

        Do you make your money back? Probably not. But my point is that governments often make investments that aren’t soley based on a monetary return on investment.

      • Jim Fitzpatrick // April 18, 2018 at 11:22 pm //

        That’s not true and you know it. As an example, I haven’t taken a book out of the library in the city I live in ever! No, it would not be a small percentage of the population to benefit from a stadium. Large rock concerts or speaking engagements could be held at the facility and local universities could utilize the facility and then be able to use the current football/soccer fields they have for expanding student housing or other facilities. And you conveniently ignore the focus of the potential project is that a stadium would be the centrepiece of the project which would include other amenities. Halifax getting a CFL team would help put the city on the ‘map’ as a larger entity, on par with other major cities in the country.

  12. If you name the team Atlantic Schooners, it would make a big difference in your funding. Besides , it sounds a lot better and is more inclusive….GO RIDERS GO….CANADA’S TEAM

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm //

      We are talking about funding for a stadium. Why even talk about a name at this stage, there isn’t a hope in hell that the region funds a stadium.

  13. Think about the economic benefits to Halifax and Nova Scotia. This is old, but it will give you an idea of the economic impact of the Riders on Regina and Saskatchewan.
    cfl.ca/2012/09/12/riders-release-updated-economic-impact-details/

    Just think this through a bit. CFL team would bring maybe 100 new good paying jobs to Halifax, including players, coaches, trainers, support staff, etc. These people would all be renting apartments, buying groceries, going movies and restaurants, etc. And every game day thousands of people would come to Halifax from around NS and the Maritimes to watch the game, and spend money in Halifax.

    So the agreement would be something roughly like this. The developers would build the stadium with their own money, and for every year that a CFL team operates out of that stadium the local and provincial, and perhaps federal, governments would pay the developers, just to use a rough number, $15 million per year, roughly the amount of extra taxes the team would generate, for say 20 years, at which time the facility would be turned over to the city. There are lots of different tweaks and modifications you could and would do to this, but this is the general idea. If the various levels of government don’t want to put the money in up front, then they can pay after the fact from the benefits they reap from the project.

    And keep in mind that there would be more than just CFL football in this stadium. I believe the plans are to have a minor pro soccer team as well, and there would be concerts and other events there as well, so the overall impact of the stadium would be much bigger than the impact of just the CFL team.

    • And, remember that over the 20-25 years of such a deal Halifax would probably host at least two Grey Cups, and those games alone inject $30 to $100 million into the local economy each.

      • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 3:07 pm //

        RFD – a convention will bring in a lot more money than holding a Grey Cup every 10 years. Snagging a couple of big conventions in one week will bring a lot of more money to local businesses than a grey cup once every 10 years.
        The figures for a Grey Cup are greatly exaggerated.

        • Please post numbers about your only argument about the convention center.

        • Jim Fitzpatrick // April 18, 2018 at 11:26 pm //

          So Halifax is the only city in Canada that hosts conferences? Why do you think most conference centres are attached to hotels?

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 3:13 pm //

      The soccer team will be playing out of the new soccer stadium on the Common if they are awarded a CPL franchise, they don’t need a 24k football stadium.
      Concerts? the metro centre seats 10k to 12k for concerts. Big events at the convention centre.
      A football stadium can only be used May to Sept for events other than football.
      THF in Hamilton gets very little use other than ticat games.
      No there is no economic need to spend taxpayers money on a 24k football stadium. Let the private investors that want this CFL team present a business plan and let them come up with the funding. If it is such a great economic benefit like you say then they would build it themselves.

      • “THF in Hamilton gets very little use other than ticat games” what the heck are you talking about!! you from “OUTSIDE” the region, theres been concerts, soccer games, trailer sales conventions, vanier football, track n field events, marching band competitions. us taxpayers put in 50 million, it was labelled our future fund but its the same money we gave them over the years. its up to the people of halifax, not politicians, economists, consultants, bankers or any other bimbo. you’ll have your say too.

      • Jim Fitzpatrick // April 18, 2018 at 11:36 pm //

        The soccer team may never even exist as the CPL is on very tenuous footing and right now they don’t have one team in place with an expected 2019 start up. In my opinion Halifax is wasting money converting the Common to a minor league soccer field. They could just as easily put that team on one of the university fields as they’ll be luck to get 1000 fans to a game. The should be looking at becoming a feeder team to the Montreal Impact or some other MLS team.
        As for concerts it appears the Metro Centre hasn’t hosted a major act in three years and there’s nothing on its current schedule. Maybe a bigger venue would attract the major acts.
        Many major stadiums get used quite often in the summer. In Ottawa they used to place an inflatable dome on the field over the winter to be used for youth sports and other activities.

  14. Note to mods. I’m taking a break from this site until you manage get the troll activity under control again. Later folks!

    • maritimejoe // April 17, 2018 at 3:17 pm //

      Yes, if someone is against taxpayers funding a CFL stadium they must be a troll.
      It’s great that someone can list all the great things about building a CFL stadium with taxpayers money and someone else can point out how ridiculous it is to use taxpayers money.

  15. Edward Leslie // April 17, 2018 at 3:34 pm //

    RFD: I agree with you 100%.
    I just don’t understand these people like Jeff and MaritimeJoe. If you don’t like the CFL, why are you on this site?
    Maritimejoe, who put you in charge of Halifax’s purse strings? Are you the manager of this Convention centre?
    Jeff: You say 40% of Canada equals 20 million people. So, you figure there are 50 million people in Canada? It actually less than 37 million.
    Your math is about as accurate as your informed opinions about the CFL… not very.

  16. Sixbeamers // April 17, 2018 at 3:54 pm //

    I imagine most of the people bashing maritimejoe (and economists in general) don’t have a horse in this race, don’t live in Atlantic Canada and, probably, have never been east of Montreal. They are the types who want to come to a party but aren’t interested in doing the organizing or paying for it.
    Marritimejoe’s may be a dissenting opinion on a CFL website, but it’s good to hear arguments — pro and con — so that all of us can be more informed about a controversial subject (the poll suggests Haligonians are divided on the issue).

  17. Shawn Goldwater // April 17, 2018 at 6:32 pm //

    I do agree about location. I’m not from there and had to Google Map the various proposed locations and was surprised at how far Shannon Park is from everything. There is nothing more central available?

    • Jim Fitzpatrick // April 18, 2018 at 11:45 pm //

      Shawn, I’ve looked at the Shannon Park location and other areas in Halifax and it appears to be the best possibility considering the footprint and location. It’s just across the bridge from Halifax in Dartmouth and allows for a stadium and other various facilities/structures to be built with plenty of room to spare. From my recollection of Halifax traffic isn’t crazy and considering CFL games are played once every two weeks it’s not as if traffic would be crazy anyway. The naysayers had the same argument in Ottawa about traffic being a problem but with only 13 game nights it’s something that could be tolerated. Also, the stadium in Ottawa really isn’t downtown but it is in a central area of the city.

  18. I do find it ironic maritime Joe on a CFL only website defending this convention center that seems to be a complete waste of money (from reading other articles it’s only like 30 percent used and costing the gov. Millions a year) and is vehemently against a stadium that could probably be built for 150 million dollars. I would challenge people who say a library or museum would get more use than a CFL multi use stadium in this day and age of internet. I suppose these people have never been to a community event as large as a football game that takes your mind off of everyday problems and brings the whole community together for a game. There’s nothing like it. Sounds like the typical vocal minority around here that complain about everything and would rather pee taxpayer money into the wind getting absolutely nothing done constructively. I sure am grateful to be from the prairies and to have the opportunity to attend such events with my fellows at mosaic (or the aged Brandt center) . Like I said there’s nothing like it. Good luck Halifax!

  19. Stopped reading at “economist says….”

    • Ya, xpurts R dum! JC smart.

      • Soy boys who are too dumb to think for themselves…..rely on so called experts. Craig probably watches lots of tv news to educate himself….and then there’s YouTube for the rest.

  20. Edward Leslie // April 18, 2018 at 1:21 am //

    There wouldn’t be any opposition from a lot of the elitists if they were spending a bundle for another museum or art gallery. But a football stadium is for regular folks. So the wine and cheese arts community get their feathers up about “wasting tax dollars”. They wouldn’t if it went to the arts of course.
    Besides people are missing the boat here.
    The whole basis of the discussion was possibly using A PART of the huge federal grants given to Halifax for a stadium.

    So, tax increases to Haligonians wouldn’t be something that would even happen. This is like found money. Does everything have to go towards basic infrastructure projects.
    There could be a lot of spinoff benefits with a new stadium, besides the addition of a CFL team, construction and stadium jobs. It could help other hospitality industries like hotels, restaurants and taxi companies. And a couple of Grey Cups alone, as was mentioned previously, could probably cover most of the city’s investment long term. It’s time to do this.

  21. 40% in favor is HUGE. Normally, you wouldn’t get 40% consensus on whether is was a nice day or not. And, if they had to pay for the nice day, much, much less.
    And, since when does the government only contribute to structures that pay for themselves? Libraries, convention centres, police stations, jails, hospitals, schools, museums, parliament buildings, senate chambers? (especially senate chambers!) the list is endless.

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