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.

Friday roundup: CFL in Halifax, Columbus ghost stadium, Sydney is the new Atlanta, and more!

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  • The CFL is considering expanding to Halifax, which means Halifax would need a CFL stadium, which means somebody would have to pay for a Halifax CFL stadium. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says a stadium is “not a capital priority at this time” and would have to be built “without putting taxpayers at risk.” The Ottawa RedBlacks stadium model is being floated, which is slightly weird because that ended up costing taxpayers a bundle of money plus free land, but maybe “taxpayer risk” is defined differently in Halifax. Anyway, we’ve been this far before, so grains of salt apply.
  • Remember how I wasn’t sure what would be included in the $75 million in public “infrastructure” spending that F.C. Cincinnati is demanding? Turns out that’s because nobody’s sure: WCPO notes that the team hasn’t provided any cost estimates or a traffic study, which “leaves us wondering where, exactly, FC Cincinnati came up with its figures.” I’ll take “nice round number, slightly less than the $100 million elected officials balked at previously” in the pool, please.
  • A guy in Columbus came up with an idea to use county sales tax money to build a new stadium to keep the Crew in town, then the next day said it was just an idea he came up with over the weekend by himself and never mind.
  • The city of Worcester is still trying to lure the Pawtucket Red Sox to town, and the state of Massachusetts may be getting involved, with one unnamed source telling the Worcester Telegram that stadium funding would need to be a “a three-legged stool” among the city, state, and team. You know this article is just going to be waved around in the Rhode Island legislature as it heads toward a vote on public funding for a PawSox stadium there, and what was everyone just saying about the role of enablers in abuse, again? (Not that stadium swindles are morally equivalent to sexual harassment, obviously, but you get my point. Also, why are all the articles about the role of enablers in sexual harassment a month old, are we not going to pay attention to that after all?)
  • The state of Connecticut may spend $40 million on upgrades to Hartford’s arena and some retail properties near its entrance, on the grounds that it might make it more attractive to buyers. If this seems like getting it backwards to you, yeah, me too, but at least it’s better than spending $250 million on the arena and then not selling it.
  • Laney College students, faculty, and staff all hate the idea of an Oakland A’s stadium on their campus. “They want to disrupt our education by building a ballpark across the street with noisy construction, traffic gridlock, pollution, and alcohol consumption by fans,” Associated Students of Laney College President Keith Welch told KCBS-TV. “We will not sacrifice our education so that the A’s owners can make more money.” Pretty sure they won’t get a vote, though.
  • “Industry experts” say that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena will charge more for concert tickets because … it’ll draw bigger-name acts that cost more, I think they’re saying? That doesn’t actually seem like a detriment, though they also note that the new arena has a higher percentage of seats in the lower bowl, which people will pay more for even if they’re way in the back of the lower bowl, and helps explains why arena and stadium designers are so obsessed with getting as many lower-deck seats as possible even if it makes for crappier upper-deck seats. Which we kind of knew already, but a reminder always helps.
  • And move over, Atlanta, there’s a new planned stadium obsolescence king in town: The state of New South Wales is planning to spend $2 billion Australian (about $1.5 billion U.S.) to tear down the Sydney stadium it built for the 2000 Olympics, along with another smaller stadium in Sydney built in 1988, in order to build newer ones that are more ideally shaped for rugby, I think? Because nobody thought of that in 2000? I need to wait for my Australian rugby correspondent to return from holiday break for a more authoritative analysis, but right now this is looking like one of the worst throw-good-money-after-bad deals in stadium history, and it’s not even in America, the land that has perfected the stadium swindle. Crikey!