Halifax council gets CFL update behind closed doors

Zane Woodford, StarMetro Halifax

HALIFAX — After a closed-door meeting, the mayor says a bid to bring professional football to the city is “just outside field goal range,” and he hopes further discussions will happen in public.

Regional council got an in camera update on Tuesday afternoon from Anthony LeBlanc and Gary Drummond, of Maritime Football Ltd., the group working to bring a Canadian Football League team to Halifax.

“They’ve advanced their case. They’re more definitive, I think, about where they want to go, although I think it’s not 100 per cent,” Mayor Mike Savage said Tuesday evening.

Earlier in the day, TSN’s Dave Naylor reported that the group had reached an agreement with the CFL for a three-step process to secure the league’s 10th team, “with the details and conditions of the first step laid out on paper.”

The report from TSN said the team is hoping to join the league for the 2021 season.

In an email, CFL spokesperson Lucas Barrett said: “I can confirm that talks have taken place however there is no ‘deadline.’ ”

“I think the CFL are very excited about coming potentially to Halifax, but again, that’s never been the issue,” Savage said. “The issue is where are they going to play?”

Savage said the group has a location in mind for a stadium, but he wouldn’t say where it is. He did suggest that the municipality would provide some kind of financial assistance if council approved the plan.

“We haven’t got the numbers, but stadiums aren’t free,” the mayor said.

“The question is, is there a way the city can contribute to that without digging deep into capital? Maybe that’s the way to go, but that’s not the model they’re looking at,” he said.

“They’re looking at more of a model — and I think that they’ve been public about this — that is offset against future potential tax revenue in the area they want to build.”

It’s a similar model to the Halifax Convention Centre, into which council invested millions of dollars and was supposed to pay for itself through property taxes.

“It does seem that there’s only two things we insist on a business case that brings in enough revenue to pay for it, and that’s convention centres and stadiums,” Savage said.

That hasn’t worked as planned for the convention centre, which is projected to lose tens of millions over the next 10 years.

Council wants “the best deal possible,” Savage said, and the group is “sensitive” to the municipality’s Integrated Mobility Plan, which prioritizes active transportation.

Savage said the group is looking at a similar model to Lansdowne Stadium in Ottawa, which includes the 24,000-seat TD Place where the Ottawa Redblacks play, along with shops, restaurants, green spaces and courtyards.

“We think it has to make sense for the municipality, but we also want something that’s transit-oriented. I don’t think anybody’s interested in building an old-school stadium with 20,000 parking spots,” he said.

Public opinion on a stadium is decidedly split in the municipality, but Savage urged citizens to keep an open mind.

“Let’s wait and see what this looks like, and it could be a lot more than even just a football stadium,” he said. “It could allow us to get back into the concert business, it could allow us to do a lot of different things, but we’ve got to see the numbers.”

The in-camera portion of council’s meeting on Tuesday lasted about four hours, though the CFL plan wasn’t the only item.

Savage vowed that the next discussion would be public, but said this one had to happen behind closed doors “because of the contractual nature and in fact even intergovernmental nature of some the discussions that they’re having.”

Councillor Tim Outhit asked his colleagues earlier in the day if some of Tuesday’s discussion could happen publicly, because, as he saw it, there was no contractual agreement proposed between the proponents and the municipality, and there was no non-disclosure agreement.

Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé explained to council the justification for holding the update in camera.

“This is a commercially sensitive discussion we’re going to be having, and it’s a matter that the proponents have asked to have a private conversation with council on, to give you an update on the project,” Dubé said.

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44 Comments on Halifax council gets CFL update behind closed doors

  1. Why is there a rider themed picture on the header of this story?

    • Because it is the flag ship franchise of the CFL

        • Best Stadium, best fans, best team, need I say more?

          • New York Yankees
            Greenbay Packers
            LA Lakers
            Montreal Canadians
            When you think of these teams do you think Best stadium or best fans?
            No, you think of Championships and winning,

            I would say the riders are more like the Harlem Globetrotters, a popular spectacle who beat up on inferior opponents- even if they have to cheat, but all to no substantial conclusion.

        • Equine Excrement // June 19, 2018 at 8:45 pm //

          Keep up zebra. It’s a CFL site and topic.

        • True Green // June 19, 2018 at 10:17 pm //

          Do you ever notice that when there is a story about a player who is an “ex” player from multiple teams, they generally show the player in a rider jersey? Ever notice there’s more articles on the Riders? Face it Red, Riders have the largest following of any CFL team. They sell more seats, they sell more jerseys, and they have more fans. That doesn’t make them a better team than your Stamps or any other team. But if you’d pull your head out of your @ss for 5 minutes and see the sunlight and the truth you’d realize that the Riders really do have an amazing fan base across the entire country.

          I am not calling the Riders the best team or Rider fans the best fans. I think Ticats have great fans, Esks have an amazing team, and I’ve complimented Calrgay many many times. But no one sells like the Riders sell and that is simply the truth.

        • PhotoJim // June 20, 2018 at 1:20 pm //

          The Roughriders outsell the rest of the league combined when it comes to merchandise, and are #3 in Canada among all sports franchises behind the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. Love them or hate them, they are the flagship franchise. If they disappeared tomorrow, the CFL would be severely damaged.

      • Outwest // June 20, 2018 at 1:05 am //

        Get over it loser.

        The Eskimos have always been and always will be the flagship team and everyone in the league knows it. They have put the most fans in the stands since ever, are second in championship rings and are THE model most others follow. Deny away but you all know it’s the truth. Rider fans are not football fans they are Rider fans and most are band wagoners at that. If the Sliders stopped playing tomorrow 75% of their so called fans would never watch football again not so with other team fans, we would just find another team to cheer for.

    • Equine Excrement // June 19, 2018 at 8:42 pm //

      Who should it be? An empty McMahon? Worst capacity percentage of week 1?

      • How about the Edmonton Eskimos

        • MR. Green // June 19, 2018 at 9:00 pm //

          There you go again reject. Making a mockery of something that has nothing to do with a story. Who cares. Could have been Pigskin Pete or a photo of the CFL logo, random fans, anything. It’s about a potential new team. Maybe next time they will use a jack a$$/horse just to shut u up. You’ve only got a few hours left with this new handle, better spout off more jibberish.
          The football talk and people able to talk and disagree with respect when your gone is perfect and what its about, with normal trash talk. Not someone infatuated with hate for a team and province.

        • Equine Excrement // June 19, 2018 at 9:02 pm //

          Because 3DN decided on a Riders shot. Keep crying shetland

    • Ridersrule // June 19, 2018 at 9:15 pm //

      Because if they realize if there is to be a maritime team they will have to follow the rider blueprint for success. It’s more than wins and loses it’s how your market your team . Who knows someday you will realize that but I won’t hold my breath .

    • Lancaster/Reed // June 20, 2018 at 12:41 am //

      Because all the rider haters like you will click on any article that has a rider angle. Just giving you more of what you want.

  2. This is all well and good, but unless the Federal or Provincial government comes up with the bulk of the $200M for a stadium….nothing happens. And adding retail and restaurants and green spaces and courtyards only ups the construction price tag.

    • True Green // June 19, 2018 at 10:19 pm //

      Everything beyond the stadium is going to be privately developed. There may be municipal tax incentives but that’s about it.

  3. Jim Bob // June 19, 2018 at 8:49 pm //

    The Ottawa concept is the way to go. Small stadium with a fun approach to attending the game along with great infrastructure around the stadium that is a great benefit to the city and overall area 12 months a year.

    • The Ottawa concept is the way to go but there is no area in the centre of Halifax that has that potential.
      As Savage said:
      “It does seem that there’s only two things we insist on a business case that brings in enough revenue to pay for it, and that’s convention centres and stadiums,” Savage said.
      That hasn’t worked as planned for the convention centre, which is projected to lose tens of millions over the next 10 years.

      There is ZERO chance of taxpayers contributing to a stadium especially after the $500 MILLION Convention Centre is losing money.

  4. fannotacoach // June 19, 2018 at 8:51 pm //

    The reason for the Rider picture according to what I was told is thus: A click on a blog in itself does not count towards anything. Only a post on that blog counts. That would explain why certain posters are allowed to return again and again. They create issues which causes others to post and it just goes on and on. Everyone knows a Rider story or caption is going to be enough bait to get posters excited. Throw in a Duron or Chris Jones and keep your head down boys!
    Not sure what I was told is valid but if it is it sure accounts for a lot.

  5. lol think about it Lauther is from nova scotia.

  6. brian johnson // June 19, 2018 at 9:04 pm //

    Not going to happen. Much better cities then them and people who actually want a CFL team

    • AwaitingModeration // June 19, 2018 at 11:10 pm //

      Do tell, what are these better cities and who are these people “who actually want a CFL team”?

      I have heard of none.

    • Your first sentence is right “NOT going to happen”
      After spend $500 MILLION on a new Convention Centre there is ZERO chance they would contribute towards a CFL stadium.
      At least a Convention Centre can be used 12 months a year and attract visitors from all over North America and eventually bring in revenue for taxpayers.

  7. True Blue // June 19, 2018 at 9:41 pm //

    I disagree respectfully, there are not “much better cities” or regions in fact in our country that could support a CFL team, we simply don’t have the large populated areas to support pro football teams which is why they need a “regional” themed team, not a city based one. There are only one or possibly two other cities that “might” be able to support a team but no steam to get one in those areas. I hope Halifax is successful because it’s sad to say but the east could legitimately lose a team in the next 5 years if things don’t change in Montreal. This league needs some success stories. Good on them for using the success of the Ottawa model.

    • You are right population doesn’t really mean a lot when it comes to CFL football, it’s about a big population that is interested in football.
      No guarantees that Halifax and Nova Scotia would get behind a regional team – the region never got behind their AHL team and lost it.
      But if this ownership group can pull it off and come up with a franchise and sell season tickets and fund a stadium without taxpayers funding then good luck to them.

  8. Equine Excellence is an embarrassment to Alberta.
    Please stop.

    • Green Apples // June 19, 2018 at 11:06 pm //

      I want to hear his honest opinion on the fan turnout at McMahon on Saturday. He doesn’t have the spine to tell the truth.

      • Equine Excellence // June 20, 2018 at 12:36 am //

        It could have been better. The weather was poor, the economy is bad, the opponent wasn’t a big draw team, and lets face it, we get a lot of post season football with does tend spoil fans and make early season regular season games somewhat mundane.
        It would say Sask was down by the same amount of people

  9. I agree the fan turn out at McMahon was pretty brutal but just goes to show not many people care about week 1 of the CFL in Calgary. I was at the game and felt good being amongst other fans who did care and even though it was near empty it was still cfl football which I love. Hopefully things turn around and we actully get a respectable stadium soon.

    • brian johnson // June 20, 2018 at 5:59 pm //

      26,000 fans playing in spring against a below average
      team is okay. Lets see how many eastern teams beat that in week 2 play

  10. Outwest // June 20, 2018 at 1:41 am //

    Just in case anyone wonders,,, this is what a flagship team looks like.

    Edmonton Eskimos.
    Western Division 1st place: 23—1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2015
    Western Division Champions: 23—1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2015
    Grey Cup championships: 14—1954, 1955, 1956, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1993, 2003, 2005 and 2015

  11. Outwest // June 20, 2018 at 1:43 am //

    And if you would like any team,, any team in the league to try and match the financial depth of the team over those years or the attendance average over all these years bring it on,, you will just get more embarrassed trust me.

  12. When the OSEG group first approached the city of Ottawa about bringing back CFL football, there was an existing stadium with the lower deck of the south side missing.
    All they needed to do was to put in temp stands where the lower deck was and the stadium could’ve been used for the CFL. Eventually they put in a proposal for develop the whole area and we know how successful it was.
    Halifax doesn’t have an existing stadium with thousands of former season ticket holders and a long tradition. Halifax doesn’t have the tax base or the income of the Ottawa area. In fact Halifax doesn’t have the income level of any other CFL city.
    Why bring it up now in an era when football is declining in the numbers of young people playing the game, viewership is down over the past few years and attendance down?

    • ottawarob // June 20, 2018 at 8:31 am //

      Just a small correction….when OSEG first approached the city the south side stand was still standing. It was only after they had decided to go after a CFL franchise was the lower south side stands condemned and torn down. At that point the plan expanded to a total redevelopment of the area and a complete renovation of the stadium.

      Regarding the viability of a CFL franchise in Halifax ( or any market for that matter ), the revival of the market in Ottawa should be studied.

      When the Renegades folded in 2005, it was the second failure of CFL football in the Ottawa market within 10 years. It capped off an era of numerous brutal ownership groups, horrible management, a team that had not had a winning record since 1979 or a home playoff game since 1983. The Ottawa market was essentially considered scorched earth. As a long time season ticket holder ( since 1984 ) I was not hopeful that I would ever see a team back in Ottawa.

      Fast forward to today…the team is back, run professionally, in touch with it’s fan base. The number of 20-35 year old fans that come out to the games are incredible and it brings an energy to the stadium which is better than I have ever seen it. That demographic has started up a booster club, organizes fan buses to road games. The RedBlacks just held a ladies football training camp evening that attracted 360 women to it. Landsdowne Park has become a place to be in Ottawa.

      IMO, if football can not only be revived in Ottawa but stronger than it has ever been, it can be done in any market. Each market has it’s own challenges, but when I look at the numerous challenges that OSEG had to overcome, if ownership is committed to giving fans reasons to want to attend games in person and be part of the game day experience any market can be re-energized.

  13. waveman // June 20, 2018 at 8:08 am //

    painfully slow..unless of course its a tax hike then it runs painfully fast

  14. Savage/Trudeau , both you so – called politicians have the most stupidest minds when it comes to business building in this country
    Holy Shit – this country is in trouble with clowns like you guys in control

    Build the stadium!!!!

  15. Scottsask // June 20, 2018 at 10:04 am //

    Go Halifax, get it done, it would be amazing!

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