Halifax group chasing CFL team picks stadium site, wants taxpayer money

In a report to Halifax Regional Council, staff say Maritime Football Ltd. is in talks with Canada Lands, a federal Crown corporation, to buy 15 to 20 acres of Shannon Park for a multi-purpose stadium

The staff report, released Friday, proposes a “thorough business case analysis” for the municipality to partner with the prospective team owners in funding the stadium through tax breaks. Such a partnership would need the go-ahead from the provincial government.

The proposed 24,000-seat stadium would cost $170 to $190 million.

The site — just next to the MacKay Bridge on the Dartmouth side — has previously been the seat of the Millbrook First Nation, who are in the process of re-acquiring about nine acres of the 95-acre plot.

According to the staff report, Canada Lands wants the municipality to “confirm community support for the incorporation of the stadium into the current Shannon Park redevelopment concept,” before agreeing to a sale.

Council requested the report in July after several months of speculation that momentum for a team was building.

Talk of a CFL franchise for Halifax has been tossed around for years, but the most recent buzz started in earnest this winter.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie endorsed the idea of an Atlantic team and made a stop in Halifax in February on a cross-country promotional tour for the league.

In June, regional council met with Maritime Football Ltd. in a closed-door meeting after which Mayor Mike Savage said a bid to bring professional football to the city was “just outside field goal range.”

Savage added that the prospective team owners had a location in mind — somewhere that could accommodate a 24,000-seat stadium — though he wouldn’t say where.

He suggested that the municipality would provide some kind of financial assistance if council approved the plan.

On the same day as the in-camera council session, TSN’s Dave Naylor reported that Maritime Football Ltd. 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.

About a month later, regional council directed staff to take the next steps toward getting a football stadium built in Halifax.

With a unanimous vote, council directed municipal staff to enter talks with Maritime Football Ltd. and the provincial government “to explore opportunities and risks” associated with a stadium and Canadian Football League franchise for the municipality.

Councillors will discuss the new report at their Oct. 30 meeting.

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