Group looking to build stadium says updated proposal is 'best deal for HRM'

The group that wants to build a CFL stadium in Halifax has updated its proposal, which it says reduces risk to the municipality and is the best deal for any stadium jurisdiction in North America.

Besides building a stadium in Shannon Park, Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE) is hoping to attract a CFL team that would serve as an anchor tenant.

The original proposal was submitted in August 2019 and details were made public at the end of September.

Last month, council held a vote based on a motion from Dartmouth Coun. Sam Austin to end talks regarding the stadium. Austin's motion was voted down 9-8.

"It didn't pass in regards to walking away from any further exploration, but it came pretty darn close," said SSE founding partner Anthony LeBlanc.

"So that was the point when we realized we needed to get the information out into the public domain and clarify things."

Schooners Sports and Entertainment

According to the news release, under the revised proposal SSE will now:

  • Contribute tens of millions of dollars for stadium construction.
  • Fund all ongoing capital expenses.
  • Be responsible for all operational expenses, regardless of ownership structure.
  • Repay the municipality's full annual contribution.
  • Share the excess surcharge profit with the city.

Halifax's chief administrative officer, Jacques Dubé, said the revised version makes him a little more optimistic about the proposed project.  

"We're getting closer, but there's still some work to do," said Dube.

"I've always said we're not going to own a stadium, we're not going to take any construction risks or any operational risks." 

Councillor Austin agrees the revised proposal clarifies some issues.  But he is still worried the municipality could be on the hook if the football team does not work out.

"It still remains a real bet whether the CFL is viable here," said Austin.

Austin is also concerned about the extra costs the municipality would have to cover to sort out transportation issues caused by the location of the stadium.

Mayor Mike Savage and a number of councillors told CBC News they had not yet read the revised proposal and did not want to comment on it yet.

Councillor Tony Mancini did say he voted against killing the project early because he was hoping for an improved proposal from SSE. 

City staff have been directed by council to analyze the proposal and return with a report in December.

24,000-seat stadium

The stadium would be a 24,000-seat facility with an inflatable winter sports dome that could be used for professional football and community sports. SSE said the stadium could host one to two major concerts a year and a minimum of one Grey Cup every 10 years.

LeBlanc said the company has been listening to public reaction to its original submission.

"Our revised proposal takes this feedback into consideration and provides HRM with a community stadium proposal that is the best deal for HRM and in fact better than any stadium jurisdiction in North America," he said in a news release.

LeBlanc has been meeting with councillors to discuss the changes and said he's staying hopeful the proposal will be accepted.

"We're optimistic and we feel that we've put a very fair proposal in place for HRM to finally have the community stadium that's been talked about for decades."

LeBlanc said within the CFL, no other buildings have been constructed with this level of private-sector involvement.

"This is a very, very positive financial equation for HRM residents and taxpayers and the community."

SSE's original proposal contained various ways the municipality could fund the stadium and community sports complex.

That included an upfront cash payment of 15-20 per cent of the cost and annual payments of $2 million with the expectation of getting money back through ticket sales.

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