Halifax CFL stadium would cost taxpayers up to $190m, team owners to kick in (cough cough, hey, what’s that over there?)

The CFL expansion team for Halifax that was first rumored last year — okay, not really “first,” as this has been the subject of rumblings for decades, but first this time around — took a major leap forward, at least in terms of media coverage, on Friday as the Halifax Regional Council posted a document laying out the basics of a stadium financing plan, which would entail:

  • a 24,000-seat stadium, to be built at a cost of $170 million to $190 million, which would cost $9 million to $10 million in annual debt service;
  • the city getting permission from the province of Nova Scotia to “contribute
    financially to the debt financing of a stadium through a Tax Incremental Financing model or otherwise”;
  • the province kicking in some money as well, with possible sources being a hike in hotel taxes or the imposition of a car rental tax;
  • the proposed team’s owners, Anthony LeBlanc (yes, the former Arizona Coyotes owner), Bruce Bowser, and Gary Drummond, would purchase land in Shannon Park, a former Navy barracks site across the harbor from Halifax in Dartmouth, from the federal Canada Lands Company for an undisclosed sum.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of hand-waving involved here. Would a football stadium in use for only nine home games really generate anything significant in terms of tax increment, which relies on increased spending in the area around a development? How much money would come from a TIF, and how much from provincial car or hotel taxes? Would the team chip in any money up front, or at least pay rent to defray the public costs? Would they pay fair market value for the Shannon Park land? Would they pay property taxes? Who would get any naming rights money? Who would pay for cost overruns and maintenance and operations? And what would the stadium’s neighbors — one bit of Shannon Park is currently owned by the Millbrook band of the Mi’kmaq first nation, and another by the Halifax regional school board — think of having this project visited upon them?

The Halifax regional council is set to meet tomorrow to vote on opening negotiations over a Shannon Park stadium plan, but it seems unlikely that we’ll get more details then about any of the above. Which is a shame, as I’m dying to call this “the worst disaster on the Halifax waterfront since 1917,” but I really should wait for confirmation of how bad it would be before saying something like that.


19 comments on “Halifax CFL stadium would cost taxpayers up to $190m, team owners to kick in (cough cough, hey, what’s that over there?)

  1. Well, as TIF creators everywhere have demonstrated, how much money you can pool from one really depends only on how widely you draw the boundaries. Maybe this one will have a radius that encompasses Quebec City and St. Johns NFLD.

    As “near downtown” sites go, this one isn’t too bad. It doesn’t require massive relocations or compulsory purchase orders (eminent domain as you call it). And the land that would effectively be taken off the tax roll probably isn’t currently taxable… though that isn’t the greatest excuse for tax exemption as has been pointed out here countless times.

    Having said that, it is difficult to see how a twin city of 400,000 give or take will fill a 24k seat stadium even ten times a year (almost everybody makes the playoffs in the cfl…). Regina and Saskatoon have a similar combined population, but the Riders also draw from across their home province – something this team may or may not do (they are attempting to make this a “regional” franchise… which plopping a stadium down on the Dartmouth waterfront arguably works against).

    This stadium will not make money. It will not even pay for it’s own operations, in all likelihood, let alone repay it’s construction cost. That doesn’t make it much different from practically every other cfl stadium out there, but let’s just admit it up front.

    So, Nova Scotians, are you willing to pay for a $200m stadium to have CFL football (and maybe a low level professional soccer team too)?

    Like Winnipeg, Regina (haven’t admitted it yet, but…) Hamilton, Montreal, Vancouver and other locales, the primary tenants do not pay enough to justify the building. So it’s really about deciding whether you value the sporting option enough to force the taxpayers to pay for it. The only difference in the CFL is most teams do not generate enough money to pay any reasonable portion of the cost of stadium construction or upkeep (unlike MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL clubs…)

    • A regional franchise? Where else are they going to draw from, Moncton? (I have driven from Moncton to Halifax, and I don’t recommend it.)

      • Yes, the idea is that they will draw from “all of the Maritimes” (Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, PEI, Maine… who knows). I have done that drive as well as a few others in the area and you are absolutely right, it isn’t easy or convenient.

        https://www.tsn.ca/group-makes-very-credible-pitch-for-halifax-cfl-franchise-1.917745

        It’s a classic catch-22. If you put the team in Moncton people from NB might come, but people from Halifax/Dartmouth or further almost certainly won’t. If you put in in Hfx/Drt you’ll draw from NS but not from NB.

        The HRM is the best of the possible locations for an Atlantic coast franchise, but it’s still going to be a struggle to get people from the Maritimes to drive 3-4 hours the way Rider fans do, for example.

        The stadium financing plan info in the linked article was helpful, thanks. It suggests that the city expects help from other levels of govt (no surprise) but also that they are anticipating $70m or so from the private partners as well as ‘some help’ in operating and maintenance costs.

        So… in principle, this looks like they are hoping for a 1/3rd, 1/3rd, 1/3rd PPP. I wonder if team ownership is thinking along those lines or more of a Reinsdorf 3/3rds no thirds split?

        • Put the stadium in the middle of the Bay of Fundy. So long as the game can be completed during low tide, it’ll work great!

          • Think of the savings on hosing out the seating bowl after each game… but they’ll have to be careful with overtimes of course…

          • It they put the stadium in the Bay of Fundy there would be permanent kayak revenue available even at high tide.

    • You have no idea what you’re talking about. I live in the HRM in Nova Scotia and WE ARE BROKE. We don’t need the Anthony Leblanc-sales-and-marketing types selling this idea to two incredibly naive governments. Mayor Savage (who, by the way, thinks getting the majority of his campaign funds from property developers is A-OK) is a knob who’s in with one of the partners in this mess. The Premier, nice guy that he is, is clueless to the antics of this American stadium racket. Please, please, Field of Schemes, can you help us? There will be a couple of meetings for taxpayers/residents and I would like to go in loaded with info. There aren’t many of us dedicated to this project—the Halifax Examiner is really the only media trying to dig up facts and his FOI request will probably be lost or completely redacted or refused. Nova Scotians have a sad saying/question: “Well, what can you do?” So they do nothing. Corruption and “The Old Boys Club” are rampant. Check out the UARB that runs everything. **(I’m at the mercy of these people—I’d like to stay semi-anonymous with my quote.)**

      • I’m always happy to provide info — what are you looking for that’s not on my website or in my book?

    • The avg November high is +8°C. The avg November low is +1.5°C. If the Grey Cup was going to be played in January or February I would agree with you, but it’s not.

      It’s unlikely a 24,000 seat facility will host many championship games, but there will probably be one awarded along with the expansion franchise (depending on how the facility is configured and how it accommodates temporary seating additions, for example).

      The bigger concern would be the heavy precipitation in the area (which can fall as rain, sleet or snow any time other than mid summer).

  2. When I first saw the stadium would be in Dartmouth harbor I thought well at least you could take a ferry to the game–but this is well out of the way of downtown Dartmouth and not in an area with any speakable development now.
    I do not think the drive from Moncton is that bad (visited last 2 years ago) but it is over 2 hours. I think some people will come from NB and the rest of NS (PEI is not likely to happen as it is too expensive to leave)–a much bigger problem is that there is just not that many people (Green Bay region is 500,000 and 1.5 Million less than 2 hours south) to draw from. I know they may have limited attendance expectations but there is a potential for the actual to be even less if they are expecting anyone to drive there past a honeymoon period.

    • I’m not sure they need 24,000 permanent seats either, frankly. It seems like 20-22k would be a more appropriate capacity for regular season games.

      Why do you say PEI is too expensive to leave? Fixed link is around $50 (and you only pay one way as I recall). It’s a longer trip than from Moncton, but not unmanageable.

  3. What was the Halifax disaster in 1917? That would allow us to make a comparative assessment.

    • Clearly somebody has not been to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic! (I did include a link, though, for those unfamiliar.)

  4. The Halifax Wanderers FC are planning to play in a 5,000-7,000 modular stadium in Halifax when the Canadian Premier Soccer League starts play next year

  5. It’s strictly anecdotal, but I’ve found the NFL, and more specifically the Patriots, more popular then the CFL in Nova Scotia by a factor of at least 6-1.

    I love Halifax to death, but the Wandrers stadium/team is what will work. Maybe if the Wolfpack take off in Toronto they’ll add rugby league and share the stadium. Otherwise, like said above, it’s all a loop that doesn’t close.

    • Try finding any place selling CFL team Merch in Atlantic Canada. Every sports retailer sells Patriots and other NFL team Jerseys and Merch in Nova Scotia. Heck I see enough License plate frames for the Patriots on Nova Scotian Cars.

  6. Well The Idea of Shannon Park is full of Cost overrun disaster in the making. They say 190 million for a Stadium there well they could be ignoring the fact that the place is full of asbestos piping for the District Heating system for the former Navy apartment buildings and the 2014 commonwealth games bid had some Geotech Studies on that land that found plenty of Pyritic Slate Rock that is an environmental nightmare for those excavating it. Can the City of Halifax have that short a memory that they ignore this well defined fact that doubled a simple Overpass bridges cost about a decade ago? Here is a great article on that debacle not far away from Shannon Park. https://www.thecoast.ca/RealityBites/archives/2011/01/24/will-wayne-anstey-citys-top-staffer-be-fired-for-this The city had two land owners with fully excavated rock quarries that would have entertained Stadium Development in the HRM for the 2015 Fifa Womens world cup.One was the developers of Dartmouth Crossing , North American Shopping Centres. There is tax losses from the federal government for Shannon Park as the City was successful in Canadian Courts to compel the feds to pay taxes on citidel hill.