HALIFAX—The stadium proposal has reignited talk of a third ferry route in the municipality, but one councillor said the mention of the long-discussed fast ferry is just a “marketing ploy.”
Halifax regional council voted unanimously this week to direct staff to put together a business case for a 24,000-seat stadium on the Shannon Park lands in Dartmouth.
The proposal, put forward by the Maritime Football Limited Partnership, could help the private company secure a CFL franchise for the region. The stadium would cost as much as $190 million, and it’s unclear who’d be footing that bill.
No matter what Halifax would be spending on the stadium itself, chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé told councillors before their vote on Tuesday that there’d be a number of other infrastructure costs: water, sewer, roads, parks and transit.
“There’s maybe an opportunity to look at a high-speed ferry out of Bedford,” Dubé said. “There may be additional opportunities to apply additional ferry service across one part of the harbour to the other side of the harbour to the actual site.”
Bedford Councillor Tim Outhit voted in favour of the staff report but isn’t fully supportive of the stadium proposal. And he’s not sure about the ferry.
“I think it’s certainly a marketing ploy,” Outhit said in an interview. “On perhaps the city’s part, or perhaps the proponent’s part.”
Outhit said there’s no question additional transportation would be necessary at Shannon Park, but a stadium alone wouldn’t justify regular ferry service to the area.
“To run ferries to the facility to the game would make sense,” he said. “Whether that necessarily means that would pave the way for a fast ferry to Bedford or not, I don’t know. My first choice has always been rail.”
Outhit argues rail would serve more areas of the municipality — from Windsor Junction through Sackville and Bedford to the downtown — than a ferry.
Municipal staff are currently studying the idea of commuter rail, working with Via Rail and CN. Outhit expects their report to come back within the next few months, before the report on the stadium proposal.
“Certainly if rail doesn’t materialize, then we’re going to have to look at any and all options, because the problem is not going to go away in Bedford and Hammonds Plains and Rockingham, where we’ve seen this incredible growth and the Bedford Highway can’t handle it,” he said.
Ken Wilson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508, the union representing bus and ferry operators in Halifax, has been advocating for a third ferry route for years.
Before Dubé even mentioned the ferry on Tuesday, Wilson had tweeted about it.
“Shannon Park is a great place for a CFL stadium. Direct access to Halifax (Harbour) and Bedford Basin,” he wrote Monday morning, adding the hashtag #halifaxferries.
Wilson envisions a three-point connection: The ferry would depart from Convoy Run in Bedford, stop in Shannon Park and continue to downtown Halifax.
“In my opinion, it would kill the train discussion because it could remove a lot of the traffic from the Bedford Highway using the ferry and the harbour that we already have,” he said in an interview.
Rather than using so-called fast or high-speed ferries, an expensive idea the municipality has batted around since 2000, Wilson suggested Halifax Transit could use the same ferries it does now.
“The regular ferries we have today, they have been proven to be one of the best ferries ever built for manoeuvrability, capability, all different weathers. I think that’s the route to go, really,” he said.
A stadium at Shannon Park would also necessitate more conventional transit in the area, an idea that Dartmouth North Councillor Tony Mancini welcomes.
“It’s one of the reasons I get excited about this project, whether it’s the stadium or it’s just simply the Canada Lands proposal, that it’ll help especially the Dartmouth North area and Dartmouth in general,” Mancini said in an interview.
Mancini said the area could use quicker, more reliable, more frequent transit between the residential parts of Dartmouth and the more industrial, employment-based Burnside area.
“There’s a challenge getting across Dartmouth,” he said. “You can get from Dartmouth to Halifax, Halifax to Dartmouth, but getting across Dartmouth is a problem.”
As Mancini mentioned, the owners of the Shannon Park lands, Canada Lands Company, already have a public-engagement-approved master plan for residential development at Shannon Park. They’re also in the process of granting a large portion of it to the Millbrook First Nation.
Whether a stadium becomes part of the plan for Shannon Park or not, there will be municipal infrastructure requirements. But Wilson believes it’s the stadium that would provide the impetus for Halifax Transit to actually improve service.
“If this city’s serious about having a state-of-the-art, 21st Century transit system, then unfortunately we’re going to have to do it on the heels of something big, like a stadium,” he said.