Founding partner Gary Drummond: Atlantic Schooners ‘could hit the field in 2022’

Photo courtesy: University of Regina

Schooner Sports and Entertainment founding partner Gary Drummond remains optimistic about building a football stadium in Halifax.

Last December, Halifax Regional Municipality debated the proposed stadium in Atlantic Canada and it ended with council voting 10-7 in favour of funding $20 million for the project. However, lots of government resources across the country have been redirected towards the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re more optimistic than we’ve ever been, probably on the stadium itself,” Drummond told CBC reporter Haley Ryan.

Ryan reports: If all goes well, Drummond said the Schooners could hit the field in 2022 in Moncton, where there is a stadium in place. The plan is to relocate the Schooners once a stadium is built in Halifax.

Mike Savage was reelected as Halifax mayor in October for a third term. That could be key for SSE as Savage has been a public proponent of building a stadium in the capital city of Nova Scotia.

“We would have put $20 million in and we would’ve gotten it back in property tax. In essence, it wouldn’t have cost anything,” Savage said in September.

“We would’ve had a stadium for generations to come. I haven’t met a business person yet who doesn’t think that’s a good investment.”

One year ago, Halifax municipal government directed the Chief Administrative Officer to negotiate a one-time contribution of $20 million towards construction costs of a community stadium, payable upon substantial completion of the facility.

“The philosophy on how these sort of facilities get built goes back to … the Colosseum in Rome. I mean, the government built that,” Drummond said.

The contribution agreement with the stadium proponent, Schooners Sports and Entertainment, is subject to the selection of a site with optimal access to major transportation routes and necessary infrastructure acceptable to the Halifax Regional Council.

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. The cost of the stadium is estimated to be in the range of $100 million to $110 million including the purchase of land.

The funding for a one-time payment of $20 million was projected to be available in the HRM strategic capital reserve in 2024, prior to the coronavirus hitting Canada. 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.

The stadium would pay full property tax of approximately $8.7 to $28.7 million over a ten to twenty-year period. Staff has been clear in discussions to date with HRM that it will not take any financial, construction, and operational risks.

Currently, Drummond believes it would take approximately one year for public stadium funding to be secured and to put an Atlantic CFL team in place.