Halifax council votes unanimously to moves ahead with CFL stadium proposal

Halifax regional council has voted unanimously in favour of a staff report on a business case for a CFL stadium at Shannon Park.

Council first met with Maritime Football Limited Partnership (MFLP) in June of this year.

The partnership – comprising AMJ Campbell Van Lines president Bruce Bowser and former Arizona Coyotes co-owners Anthony LeBlanc and Gary Drummond – is in talks with the Canadian Football League to secure an expansion franchise for Halifax for the 2021 season, conditional on a stadium.

The group has since met with Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) staff, provincial staff and Premier Stephen McNeil.

A report to regional council last week revealed MFLP’s pitch to build a 24,000-seat stadium in Shannon Park, a 38-hectare area on the Dartmouth side of the MacKay Bridge that was used for military housing from the 1950s until the early 2000s.

That pitch was debated at council Tuesday afternoon, where the topic of financing was top of mind, as it still isn’t clear how much public funding would go into the project if HRM were to partner with MFLP.

The report says the stadium would cost $170- to $190 million and proposes a controversial model called tax increment financing (TIF) to pay, at least in part, to build it. A TIF model requires borrowing money upfront and then paying it back through increased property taxes in the surrounding area.

That method was questioned at length at Tuesday’s council meeting. Counc. Steve Adams wondered what would happen if the TIF couldn’t provide enough financing, while Counc. Tim Outhit asked who would carry the debt.

Dube said MFLP would own the stadium and therefore carry the debt.

Further capital could be required from HRM to build the appropriate infrastructure for the development, like roads and transit.

In the report it seemed that HRM would also be on the hook for ongoing repairs and maintenance of the stadium.

Counc. Lisa Blackburn said the potential repair and maintenance obligations gave her pause.

“We’re not in the business of running CFL stadiums, and that is something that needs to be clarified,” she said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

HRM CAO Jacques Dube said the wording in the wording in the report was “clumsy,” but HRM would not actually have to contribute to those ongoing costs.

MFLP’s capital contribution to the project is not yet clear.

Shannon Park was previously the seat of the Millbrook First Nation, which is in the process of reclaiming about 3 hectares of land in the area.

MFLP will have to get the go-ahead from the First Nation to build their proposed stadium.

Questions around the capital contributions from the province, municipal planning bylaw amendments, and community approval also need to be answered – all of which are now in the hands of HRM staff.

A more detailed business analysis is expected to take about six months.

In the meantime, MFLP has plans to launch a season ticket campaign and a team-naming contest in November.

More to come.

– Star Metro Halifax

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