If the CFL expands to Halifax, the team will need to play out of an existing venue that can be upgraded to include the required infrastructure, seating, and amenities.
The only two existing facilities with the potential to become CFL venues are the Wanderers Grounds and Huskies Stadium. 3DownNation sought to examine the possibility of either venue becoming a permanent CFL stadium, touring both ahead of Touchdown Atlantic, which will take place at Huskies Stadium on Saturday.
Below are our findings, including locally-sourced information, photos of both venues, and the opinion of CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. It should be noted that provincial and city government officials were unavailable for comment as they continue dealing with the aftermath of the recent flood that devastated the city, causing multiple deaths.
The Wanderers Grounds are located on a triangular city block in central Halifax north of Sackville Street. The facility was recently upgraded to host international rugby matches and serve as the home for the Halifax Wanderers of the Canadian Premier League for their inaugural season in 2019. The club quickly gained local popularity and consistently leads the CPL in attendance by a wide margin.
The block is 500 metres south of the Halifax Common, a large urban park surrounded by local businesses, and one kilometre west of the downtown waterfront. The area is loaded with bars, restaurants, and entertainment with a significant amount of high-rise construction underway.
Though the Wanderers Grounds have a capacity of 6,500 listed online, a sign at its entrance indicates the venue can hold 8,000 people. There is a large grandstand located on the north side of the facility with smaller seating areas surrounding the rest of the field. The locker rooms and media centre are built out of repurposed shipping containers on the venue’s south side.
The block is approximately 600,000 square feet in size with the Wanderers Grounds taking up close to half of that space. The Museum of Natural History is located north of the field along with the Halifax Lancers building, which houses a non-profit horse riding school. The Power House Youth Centre is located east of the Wanderers Grounds in a small heritage building beside a lawn bowling facility.
If a permanent stadium could be constructed using the land currently occupied by the Halifax Lancers as well as the lawn bowling field, the Wanderers Grounds would have a pentagonal footprint of approximately 400,000 square feet in size. For context, the footprint of Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, which seats almost 24,000 fans and will host this year’s Grey Cup, is approximately 350,000 square feet.
The facility currently has no permanent washroom facilities, which means the city would have to dramatically improve the available utilities before a more robust stadium could be built. Given the orientation of the existing field, it’s likely that none of the current amenities could be repurposed for CFL usage with the lone exception of the main grandstand, which could be dismantled and relocated.
Derek Martin, the president of Sports & Entertainment Atlantic and owner of the Wanderers, has hinted that a more permanent facility could soon be built on the Wanderers Grounds. The entrepreneur was born in Hamilton and has a football background, having played quarterback at St. Francis Xavier University as well as overseas in Europe.
The location is excellent and there appears to be sufficient room for a new building, though the Wanderers Grounds likely wouldn’t fall under the “temporary-permanent” solution the CFL is looking for in its current state. The venue’s potential is sky-high but the existing facility needs far more than a fresh coat of paint and a few extra seats to become viable for professional football.
Huskies Stadium is located in the centre of campus at Saint Mary’s University and currently has a permanent capacity of 2,000. The site will play host to TD Atlantic on Saturday with seating having been expanded to approximately 11,000 for the game.
The stadium is attached to the athletics building, which is east of the field. The building was recently expanded to include a new entranceway and contains a multi-story workout facility, classrooms, basketball courts, squash courts, administrative offices, and an area for the football team, including a modest weight room. There is also a canteen that is easily accessible from the stadium for use on game days.
Two residence buildings are located on the south side of the stadium along with a large cafeteria. Saint Mary’s campus bookstore is located north of the venue, while an academic building and convenience store are located west of the stadium, albeit almost 80 feet behind the existing grandstand.
The field was replaced in 2022 with the same product currently installed in U.S. Bank Stadium and FedEx Field, the respective homes of the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Commanders.
The track that surrounds the field is in disrepair and wasn’t constructed to regulation size as it features only seven lanes on the straights and six lanes on the curves. If space that’s currently occupied by the track was needed for new stadium seating, it doesn’t appear as though its removal would be met with pushback from the school.
A plan was developed 20 years ago to expand Huskies Stadium to feature two 10,000-seat grandstands on the west and east sides of the field along with an additional 2,000 seats in both end zones. These plans did not include the removal or reconfiguration of any existing campus infrastructure except for the stadium itself, per sources. As such, it appears there is enough space for Huskies Stadium to become a viable permanent venue for a CFL team.
Saint Mary’s University campus is located further south than the Wanderers Grounds, though it remains fairly central. Huskies Stadium is a little under two kilometres southwest of the downtown waterfront, while the southernmost portion of the Halifax Common is approximately one kilometre away.
If Halifax is going to play host to a CFL team at some point in the relatively near future, it’s clear that Huskies Stadium is the only venue they could realistically use. Though there is a significant amount of infrastructure that would need to be built, including seating, concessions, washrooms, locker rooms, and team offices, there are plenty of existing amenities that could be used on an interim basis.
The same cannot be said for the Wanderers Grounds, despite it being in what appears to be a better location. Though the facility serves the local CPL team well, there are simply more hurdles to overcome for a permanent stadium to be constructed.
Halifax mayor Mike Savage made it clear last summer that the city has no desire to build a CFL-specific stadium. He was not asked regarding plans to enhance Huskies Stadium, though the area surrounding the venue was undergoing some renovations at the time. Huskies Stadium is the property of Saint Mary’s University, while the Wanderers Grounds are owned by the city.
League commissioner Randy Ambrosie, who indicated that there is “very strong interest” from “more than one” potential ownership group for a CFL team in Halifax, doesn’t have a preference regarding whether the Wanderers Grounds or Huskies Stadium being a possible solution to current stadium problem.
“I personally am agnostic to which of those two it would be. I’m excited to be at Saint Mary’s [for the game on Saturday]. I had a chance to tour the facility [on Thursday] and I thought it was set up beautifully for a CFL game,” said Ambrosie.
“I also know there’s some real positives about the Wanderers field and its proximity to downtown. In the end, the one that emerges as the best place for a CFL franchise to be is the one that I’m going to love the most.”