Tuesday, October 30, 2018
HALIFAX TAKES NEXT STEP TO BUILDING STADIUM
In a unanimous decision, council has directed municipal staff to complete a thorough review of the business case put forward by Maritime Football Limited Partnership, which is in the final stages of securing a conditional CFL expansion franchise.
City staff are also expected to seek changes to the city's charter that would potentially allow for a special tax arrangement and assist with debt financing of the massive project - pending the outcome of the business case analysis.
"There's a lot of people that want a stadium at any cost, there are a lot of people that don't want a stadium at any cost, I want a stadium at the right cost,'' Mayor Mike Savage told council.
"So that's what I want to see when this comes back, is it the right cost?''
The group has proposed Shannon Park, a 38-hectare swath of land on the east side of Halifax harbour, as the preferred location for the stadium, which comes with an estimated price tag of up to $190 million.
Anthony LeBlanc, founding partner of Maritime Football, said he felt good about council's 15-0 vote to move the process along.
LeBlanc said he felt confident his group would be able to continue to work with city staff, the province, landowner Canada Lands Company, and the Millbrook First Nation.
"Ultimately there's optimism that we can do this as long as everybody is at the table understanding what the shared risk is.''
LeBlanc said the city has made it clear it is not interested in owning the stadium, which would be the responsibility of his group.
"They are not averse to being involved as financial partners because they see the value a stadium brings, but their biggest concern was the ongoing risk of operating a facility. We understand that; it's not our only contribution but it will be our main contribution.''
However, LeBlanc made it clear that the initiative would need some form of help from the municipality, province and even the federal government.
Premier Stephen McNeil said Tuesday that the provincial government has not been asked for anything at this point, but he believes it will be.
"We've said that anything we put in will not come out of general revenue, so in other words it would have to be a new revenue source,'' said McNeil. "But we have not said no to this.''
Halifax's top bureaucrat told council the proposal is for more than a football stadium.
"This project is an estimated half-a-billion-dollar real estate development that includes a stadium,'' said Jacques Dube, chief administrative officer of Halifax Regional Municipality.
Dube said the stadium would host a variety of sporting events, concerts and cultural celebrations.
He said Maritime Football is analyzing winter options as well, including a full-time outdoor skating rink or an air-inflated sports dome.
Yet Dube admitted that the biggest question is whether the project is feasible and will be supported by the community.