Following the favourable vote by the Halifax Regional Municipality to fund $20 million for a CFL-type stadium, Schooner Sports and Entertainment founding partner Anthony LeBlanc detailed what’s next.
LeBlanc sat down with CTV Atlantic news anchor Steve Murphy for a question and answer.
Murphy: Where are you on the happiness scale?
LeBlanc: “We’re pretty high on the happiness scale. It’s been an eventful I guess you could say six weeks since there was a motion to kill the stadium proposal altogether. Really a lot of work in particular in the last two weeks with city staff and we’re very happy with where things went.”
Is this a done deal? Is it somewhere between dead and done?
“We submitted a proposal at the end of August that had four options and one of the options is actually the option that went forward. We’re certainly OK with the concept that came forward.”
If not Shannon Park, where are you willing to build?
“We’ve been pretty open. We’ve talked to the folks over at Dartmouth Crossing. We’ve looked at Bayers Lake. The airport has come up. There’s a new potential site over in the Woodside area. That one is a little bit trickier because my understanding is the province just recently sold that land, so it comes down to does the land owner have an appetite of discussing that. I’d say there’s four or five sites, but the key is going to be working with HRM over the next couple of weeks to ensure that whatever the final site is, it ticks off the boxes that were highlighted.”
Who is going to decide what the final site is? Is the city going to have final right of approval on that?
“We have been told there are two things that are of extreme importance in regards to the site. It has to have infrastructure in place because HRM does not want to get into a situation where they’re on the hook for 10 of millions of dollars of infrastructure. And the other thing is ensuring that it’s a site that can support transit.”
Is there any site on the peninsula of Halifax that you will consider?
“We would absolutely consider anything that falls within those parameters. We need roughly 20-25 acres. When the staff report was released publicly my phone lit up of people calling that have land that they would like to have us consider. This is the time, if there is a site that I don’t know about in the peninsula, we’d be all ears.”
How certain are you that you can raise the kind of money needed to basically go this alone?
“Obviously, the next step is to sit down with the province, they have been at the table throughout, but they have been very clear they don’t want to get engaged in a deep manner until we cross the hurdle that we did with HRM. We’ve been very up front throughout this process that we need both HRM and the province.”
I’ve never heard the premier [Stephen McNeil] offer a penny for this project.
“I don’t want to put words in his mouth. He has an open appetite to looking at creative ways that the province can be involved. But he’s been very clear, general revenues have never been something that are on the table, and we understand that. We’ll work with the province to see if there’s creative ways to make this happen.”
What are creative ways the province can be involved?
“What are the incremental revenues that are being generated because of a stadium? It’s pretty easy to be able to say the stadium itself is creating this certain amount of economics from game days and from concerts. Those types of revenues are the things that should easily be able to go back into a project. It’s reinvesting the monies that come in through the stadium itself.”
Are you able to put $80 million into this project? I mean are you able to do it without the province?
“No, no, absolutely not. We’ve made it clear that at a minimum two levels of government need to be involved.”
The municipality says it doesn’t want to own the stadium and it will not operate it. You’re good with that?
“100 percent. We would take on the sole operational risk, which is multi-million dollars a year. And from the ownership, that’ll be decided. More than like these types of buildings get owned by a third party umbrella group that’s usually a not-for-profit. That’ll get worked out here over the next couple of months.”
So what has to happen now to make this project go ahead?
“We have to select the site in conjunction with HRM to ensure it ticks those boxes, that happens relatively quickly. We then have to put together a final agreement which goes back to council. And obviously we need to work closely with the province.”
And what does this now do to the timeline for a CFL team in Halifax?
“It continues to be in that 2022 range. We are still very open to the concept of looking at a temporary stadium. We mentioned publicly the idea of Moncton perhaps being that location for a year or two.”
How much money are you putting on this now [happening]? Is it better than 50-50 now?
“Obviously we’ve been spending a lot of money getting to this point, professional services to get here. If you asked us three weeks ago probably it was like 10 percent, going in it was 50-50 and today we’re in the 70-80 percentile range.”