The three candidates running for mayor in Halifax each presented different takes on the potential of a CFL stadium.
Halifax Regional Municipality debated the proposed stadium in Atlantic Canada last December and ended with council voting 10-7 in favour of funding $20 million for the project. Incumbent Mike Savage was one of the ‘yes’ voters, while current competitor Matt Whitman recorded a ‘no’ vote.
“I voted against taxpayer dollars invested in a stadium. If it was a good business investment then business people would be investing. I love professional sports but I don’t want taxpayers to foot the bill. Make it easy for investors to invest in HRM,” Whitman told Halifax Today.
The contribution agreement with the stadium proponent, Schooners Sports and Entertainment, was to be subject to the selection of a site with optimal access to major transportation routes and necessary infrastructure acceptable to Regional Council. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has since thrown up a major roadblock.
“I think this project was a tough sell before COVID-19 and isn’t a priority at this time. I’d withdraw the pledge. Wait until we are in better shape to play football, even though I would love to see a team in Halifax at some point,” Max Taylor said.
SSE amended their initial proposal for a community stadium which would have seating capacity for 24,000 — 12,000 permanent seating and 12,000 temporary seating. A one-time payment of $20 million was projected in available funding from the HRM strategic capital reserve in 2024. Total HRM cost of the recommendation would be $20 million, which is considerably less than the costs of the original options proposed by SSE of $41 to $79 million.
“It’s always been my view that a stadium at the right price would be good for Halifax. I still believe a city of our size should have a stadium but now does not appear to be the right time. At this time, we have to think about all of our expenditures and this is no different,” Savage said.
“The proposed municipal contribution of $20 million on a $120-million facility was less than we spend on many of our public amenities, including hockey arenas, the Central Library, multi-sport facilities. I would want a stadium to have broader public use, not simply the home of a CFL team.”
Savage was elected as Halifax mayor in 2012, and he’s vying to be re-elected for a second time after successfully doing so in 2016. The 2020 election will be held on Saturday, October 17 and the winner could impact the fate of a CFL team on the East coast.