Schooners ownership group not participating in Touchdown Atlantic due to expansion uncertainty

Photo courtesy: University of Regina

The Canadian Football League may be attempting to drum up support for an expansion franchise in Halifax by hosting their Touchdown Atlantic game this week, but the ownership group for that prospective tenth team is not confident enough to participate in the event.

In an interview with Regina Leader-Post reporter Murray McCormick, Schooner Sports and Entertainment founding partner Gary Drummond stated his group would not be present at any of the league’s events because expansion to Halifax is not imminent.

“We have a lot of goodwill, but we don’t have a franchise arrangement right today. We certainly don’t have the funding and the government participation that we require. That’s not in place because we just haven’t had an opportunity to meet with them,” Drummond said.

“We don’t want to be presumptuous. We’re enthused about the prospects and we think we’re equipped to be a catalyst to making it all happen. We want the opportunity, but we don’t have that, and that’s what we’re working on.”

The CFL’s initial marketing claimed that the Atlantic Schooners would be co-hosting many of the activities in the Nova Scotia capital this week, as well as the main game in Wolfville. However, they’ve been conspicuously absent despite repeated claims from commissioner Randy Ambrosie that expansion is all but guaranteed.

“We just haven’t got things firmly in place to the point where we should make statements in public,” Drummond said.

The CFL originally unveiled the marketing for the Atlantic Schooners back in 2018 and SSE later secured a deal with the Halifax Regional Municipality which would have provided $20 million in public funds to help build a new stadium.

That offer was withdrawn due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Halifax mayor Mike Savage said in an exclusive sit-down with 3DownNation‘s Justin Dunk this week that there is “no political appetite” to re-open conversations around potential stadium funding.

“The stadium is actually where it all starts and ends for us,”  Jim Stapleton, another founding partner of SSE, told McCormick. “We think there’s a message to tell where it minimizes the economic impact for the government while maximizing its opportunity, but we’ve got to get in front of those people to do so.”

While the group remains confident that the Atlantic Schooners will eventually become a reality, the timeline is far less immediate than the CFL would like fans to believe, putting a significant damper on the league’s Atlantic exhibition this Saturday.