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Councillors on both sides over $40M Halifax Wanderers stadium proposal – Halifax

Halifax councillors seem to have mixed feelings about a new stadium proposal from the Halifax Wanderers soccer club.

While there’s some support for the $40-million idea, there’s also concern about the timing of the request.

It comes during a time when the municipality — much like the rest of the country — is grappling with an affordability and housing crisis. And that’s what’s top of mind for Coun. Pam Lovelace.

“We have a homeless and affordability crisis in Halifax, which will soon to be a humanitarian disaster in our region if we don’t act now,” she wrote in an email.

“I support a stadium project that funds itself without reliance on the public purse.”

Coun. Patty Cuttell, who called the stadium a “needed facility,” said the municipality also has to consider its green space as the population grows.

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“I just think before we make that commitment to that investment, we need to do our due diligence and look at what other options exist out there,” she said in an interview with Global News.

Click to play video: 'HFX Wanderers FC owner talks new stadium proposal'

HFX Wanderers FC owner talks new stadium proposal

Derek Martin, the president of the soccer club, presented a proposal for an expansion of the Wanderers Grounds facility during a community development and economic development standing committee meeting last week.

The $40-million project would include a 2,000-seating expansion, which would increase the venue’s capacity to 8,500. To accomplish this, the plan includes permanent grandstands to replace rented bleachers and a possible expansion that could include a bubble dome for year-round, multi-sport use.

“We have one of the best atmospheres in Canada for professional soccer because we consistently sell out a venue that’s appropriately sized for the Halifax of today,” Martin said during a presentation to councillors.

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“With the Wanderers now a proven entity, we can contribute financially to the costs associated with the stadium, and thus enable an asset to be built that can service the community without putting the full cost on the taxpayer.”

Martin said the soccer club was “willing to help contribute financially” and was looking for a 30-year lease, which would see the Wanderers be the main tenant, along with a commitment to further attract national and international events.

Global News emailed municipal councillors Monday asking their thoughts on a new stadium.

Several said they wanted more information first, but some were interested in the idea.

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“I think a more permanent stadium solution at the Wanderers Grounds would be better than what they have there now,” said Coun. David Hendsbee, who added he would want to see a cost breakdown to understand what the municipality could be on the hook for.

Others were quick to point out that the Wanderers’ ask differs from the CFL‘s ask for a stadium in the past.

Coun. Sam Austin said the Wanderers are a “proven entity here,” while there has never been a football team in the city.

“That said, HRM has a lot of competing priorities and there is still planning to do for this block of the Common. A lot for me will depend on what the Wanderers are actually bringing to the table,” Austin wrote.

‘Location, location, location’

Moshe Lander, a Concordia and Dalhousie University professor who specializes in sports economics, said the fact the Wanderers are a proven team helps their cause.

Something else does too.

“Location, location, location,” he said when asked what sets the Wanderers and CFL pitches apart.

“The ridiculous idea of the Dartmouth Crossing or under the bridge or wherever they wanted to put the CFL, it was always the wrong idea because modern arena and stadium design is you build it where the people are,” he said.

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“It is essentially where the people are, or at least it’s easily accessible to where people are. And so this would be an addition, then, to that downtown area and it would tighten up the downtown core. Then it would kind of give an anchor.”

Derek Martin, the president of the soccer club, presented a proposal for an expansion of the Wanderers Grounds facility during a community development and economic development standing committee meeting last week.

Callum Smith/Global News

Yet Lander cautions that the municipality should be careful, because “there’s no ring here on anybody’s finger, there’s no commitment.”

“Once that stadium is built … this is the big risk whenever city funds go into a stadium, the Wanderers could decide in five years, 10 years, 30 years, ‘We’re out of here,’” he said, adding that the lack of corporations stepping up is “indicative that there is no return in it.”

“So it’s just something to keep in mind. This does not secure anything other than just there will be a stadium in the Commons,” he said.

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More staff reports and presentations will be required before any decisions are made, however, Martin from the Wanderers has indicated he hopes the new stadium could open in May 2025.

— with a file from Global News’ Callum Smith and Mitchell Bailey

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

#Councillors #sides #40M #Halifax #Wanderers #stadium #proposal #Halifax

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