Randy Ambrosie: there’s ‘probably never been a better chance’ for CFL expansion in Halifax

Photo courtesy: Ted Pritchard/Rattleboxmultimedia.ca/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie seems ready to catch a big fish in Halifax or cut bait with the idea of his league expanding to the Nova Scotia capital city.

“We certainly haven’t been shy in making the point that we would really like to be here. We think this is a perfect market for the CFL. We believe we would have a big, very positive contribution to this community and frankly to all of Atlantic Canada,” Ambrosie said.

“But at some point, you have to say, we’ve tried and done everything we can. I’d like to believe that when all is said and done, the region knows that we love being here, that we respect everything about them and we’d like to be part of their community. But at some point, they have to kind of pull us in the rest of the way.”

“I’d be hesitant to use phrases like ‘do or die’ but I think we are getting to the point where we’ll have to say: is it going to happen now? And if not, we walk away having had good experiences and maybe one day we’ll restart the conversation. We’re excited to be here, we see a lot of potential, but at some point, we’ll have a real conversation about whether we can make this happen.”

The CFL has had its line in the Atlantic Ocean for over 40 years dating back to when the Maritime Professional Football Club was granted a conditional franchise in May 1982. That ownership group was led by John Donoval and J.I. Albrecht and later that year, following a contest and study, the team had a name: the Atlantic Schooners.

Just over one year later, in July 1983, a stadium debate and lack of government funding held up progress and the prospective owners withdrew their application for a franchise while refunding season-ticket deposits.

It’s now 2023 and Ambrosie claims there is “more than one” interested ownership group for a franchise in Halifax. The CFL has been working with its investment banking partner, Park Lane, to identify potential owners. The league’s board of governors has enlisted the support of a local community leaders group who have been helping guide in-market conversations and further understand what might be possible.

“I think there is a very strong interest in potentially being an owner of a franchise here. The question that we have to resolve is: what would be the facility solution? We’re going to be at beautiful Saint Mary’s University for the game (on Saturday). Then there’s the conversation about what could be possible at Wanderers Field. Both are good options for us,” Ambrosie said.

“I think there’s probably never been a better chance for this to happen, but there’s that last kilometre that you have to cross over. We’re going to push really hard, we’re going to try really hard, we’ve made a lot of friends in this market and I’m hoping at some point it all results in the outcome we’ve all wanted.”

Ambrosie explained the CFL is going to have conversations leading up to the Touchdown Atlantic game and immediately following the event to get a sense of what the marketplace is thinking. After that, he and the league can decide if the line has any bites or whether it’s being pulled out of the water.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.