Halifax mayor impressed by group looking to bring CFL team to city

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Halifax mayor impressed by group looking to bring CFL team to city

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says many people have come to his office in the past to talk about setting up a CFL franchise in the city, but once he's discussed what's needed, they haven't returned.

He said that's what makes the most recent pitch from a group looking to set up a team here so distinct.

"It's totally different than anything else that I've seen," said Savage.

The biggest obstacle Halifax faces is it doesn't have a football stadium suitable for the CFL.

Concordia University sports economist Moshe Lander said he's not a fan of using public money to build stadiums.

"They tend to overpromise benefits and they tend to … underprice the costs. Anything that avoids sticking taxpayers with money is certainly a good idea," he said.

How a Halifax stadium would be financed isn't clear. While Savage said a stadium isn't a capital priority for the city, he didn't seem to rule out funding for one either.

"We have to get creative and find something that protects the taxpayer, but if it enhances the quality of life of the community, gives us a stadium where you can do professional football [and] many other things, the city is not on the ball for operating costs, come back and see us, and they've come back," he said.

Savage said one of the proponents is Anthony LeBlanc, the former president and CEO of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes.

Mayor impressed with proponents

"They're made up of serious people and with experience, and so far they've been very impressive," he said.

Savage says council has discussed the idea of having a CFL team twice in the past month. The first time was to provide a heads-up that there was interest, while the second time included a meeting with the proponents and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

Savage said economic factors such as a growing population and strong economy bode well for having a team here.

Chris Valardo, the vice-president of high performance with Football Nova Scotia, would like there to be a team here.

"I think if we get a stadium, it makes a lot of sense. It rebalances the CFL. They're one team short in the East versus the West," he said.

At present, the league has nine teams and having an additional team would allow for two five-team divisions.

"I think it would be really exciting because now you have a coast-to-coast league. We have a tremendous atmosphere here in Atlantic Canada with … U Sports university football here."

As well, Valardo thinks having a team here would mean good things for minor football.

"They have exposure to professional athletes, professional coaching, just a professional organization. [It] brings a tremendous amount of validity to the sport," said Valardo.

In a statement issued Thursday, the CFL said conversations with the proponents regarding a team in Halifax are "relatively new" and cautioned that a thorough process of due diligence would need to be undertaken.