Pipe dreams: A new stadium in Halifax

HALIFAX – Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following a thread in the Halifax section of popular online forum Skyscraperpage where discussions over a new major stadium in Halifax have been gaining momentum.  To give a little background, many Haligonian sports fans have been clamouring for a new major sports facility for years.  Some argue the city should build a new Metro Centre with an arena that could hold substantially more than the 10,000 fans of the current Metro Centre, raising the city’s prospects for gaining an NHL franchise some time down the road.

For others, the story properly begins in 2006, with Prime Minister Harper announcing funding for a stadium in Moncton for the 2008 World Junior Athletics Championship.  With sports money going elsewhere, the Harper Government’s move helped grease Halifax’s ill-fated bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games—which would likely have included plans for a new stadium—to be withdrawn following mounting criticism over budgeting in 2007. With the Commonwealth Games abandoned, hopes for building a football stadium that might later host the east coast’s first CFL team faded along with it.

Gone but not forgotten. With growing concern for the degradation done to the Halifax Common following summer super-concerts and the continuing inadequacy of other stadiums around the city to host sports like football, soccer and rugby, calls for a new outdoor stadium are again being heard.  Here’s the letter written by the people over at Skyscraperpage setting out the benefits a new stadium would bring to Halifax:

There has been talk in the Halifax area of building a new Metro Centre II. We believe that a new football stadium is more important to the Halifax area than a new Metro Centre II arena. It will provide a facility that will allow Halifax to potentially join the CFL and would allow citizens and visitors to attend concerts in comfort. Down the road Halifax may need a larger, more modern Metro Centre to gain an NHL team, however, in the near future the NHL is likely not coming to Halifax, whereas the CFL has expressed interest in having a Halifax team in the CFL. Should Halifax be like Hamilton and build a large arena and then dream for 30 years of the NHL coming to town, or build a stadium and most likely obtain a CFL team? Just imagine the Grey Cup being held in Halifax. This is not a pipe dream, Halifax has proven that it can put on big events.

With a new stadium, the Halifax area will have two facilities for concerts. One for very large concerts (the new stadium) and another (the current Metro Centre arena) for medium size concerts. People will be able to go to a large concert and have adequate washroom facilities and places to sit. The new stadium will complement the current Metro Centre whereas a new Metro Centre II arena will simply make the old Metro Centre arena obsolete with little added benefit to the community.

The time has come to put the Commonwealth Games behind us and move on to newer and better things. A new stadium designed economically that could be used for multiple purposes would be a great benefit and source of civic pride to the people of the Halifax area and Nova Scotia. We need someone in the HRM city council to get the ball rolling on a new stadium. We, the silent majority, are sure it will be popular with most people in HRM other than the few vocal naysayers. What has happened to the great excitement that was generated by Halifax winning the Canada bid for the Commonwealth Games? It has again been replaced with a feeling of “we can’t do it”.

A lot of us want that Halifax moxy back. We were given a promise and sense of excitement that was not fulfilled. We want the rest of Canada to know that Halifax has not been neutered and still has an attitude of being able to get things done. We believe that Halifax can support the CFL and that the Halifax team will become one of the most successful franchises in the CFL which will greatly benefit not only Halifax and the Maritimes but the entire CFL. Where are the people in the city council who supported the Commonwealth Games? You gave us a dream and replaced it with a sense of hopelessness in obtaining a stadium and obtaining part of the Canadian dream; a Grey Cup winning team.

We feel that the best option for Halifax would be a fiscally responsible stadium that fits the Halifax climate. Design it so that most of the permanent seats are covered (what’s the point of a roof that covers only half of the permanent seats?). We all know that there are going to be many concerts and sports events that are rain-drenched affairs. So build a section of 15,000 entirely covered seats with all the washroom facilities with room for another 30,000 temporary seats (to be added as required). Then once the stadium shows its worth, it can be expanded with more permanent seats. Moncton has lead the way with their new stadium and now it is Halifax’s turn to go a step further.

With over 800 people having already signed their petition for building a new 30,000 seat stadium, the idea continues to pick up steam. So let’s say Halifax did get a new stadium of this size, where would it go? Exhibition Park, Dartmouth Crossing or potentially even concentrating all those parking lots and big box stores at Windsor and Young Streets on the peninsula and using the stadium as the driving force to urbanize the area into a more pedestrian-scaled environment. This could help to avoid building swaths of parking lots out somewhere in the suburbs that will sit empty for most of the time, since there are currently plenty of businesses on the Windsor-Young stretch that could make use of parking during the day.

13 comments

  1. I understand that the prospect of having a CFL team in Halifax is a major selling point, but I’m not sure how eager the league will be to plant a team here given the number of times Ottawa has been granted – and failed to sustain – a franchise.
    The culture of football in Halifax has always been centred around the Saint Mary’s Huskies, which is an intangible that could either provide the necessary support for such an endeavor, or detract from it.
    Any ballpark figures for the costs of building a new stadium vs. “Metro Centre II”?

  2. Thank you for publishing our letter. This was a compilation of the feelings of several people on the skyscraperpage forum. Here’s to hoping that the stadium becomes a reality in the near future.

    The article looks great as does the photo that you used. I hope that you will continue to visit the skyscraperpage thread.

  3. This picture is of a proposed Winnipeg stadium from a few years back, I suppose the size would be similar to what some in Halifax are aiming for. I would think a petition for a 30,000 seat stadium would need a lot more than 800 signatures to be the slightest bit convincing though. I still don’t understand why the CFL won’t land in Quebec City, they have the best University Football program in the country, get lots of fans out to see these games, and by far is the most populous city in the country currently without a franchise.

  4. I would love to see a stadium in metro Halifax.  I’m not sure about a CFL team, but it would be a boon for the university football and may even lead to some international soccer matches. Something that I believe there is a good following for.
    Also it would be nice to have a venue to attract more major concerts.

  5. CFL comminsioner Mark Cohon and the CFL board of governors have already stated that they will expand ‘anywhere’ there is a solid proposal … as long as there is a minimum 20 000+ seat stadium. If Quebec City or Monction builds one first, then expansion will happen there. Build it and they ‘will’ come …

  6. Being an old Rough Rider fan, a slight clarification on the longevity of CFL football in Ottawa.

    “The Ottawa Rough Riders were a Canadian Football League team based in Ottawa, Ontario, founded in 1876. One of the oldest and longest lived professional sports teams in North America, the Rough Riders won the Grey Cup championship nine times. Their most dominant era was the 1960s and 1970s, a period in which they won five Grey Cups. The team’s fortunes waned in the 1980s and 1990s and they ultimately ceased operations following the 1996 season. Five years later, a new CFL team known as the Ottawa Renegades was founded.”

    Therefore, it would be important to learn the lessons of what didn’t work with the Renegades.
    Cheers, Lawrence

  7. Case Study:
    CFL football works in Montreal because the team plays at McGill stadium for all but the biggest games, and the place is sited in what could be the most amazing location for a sports venue ever (http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/5879929.jpg). It is also small enough to seem like a sweet party, every game. On top of this, the tickets/beers are cheap.
    Strictly from a fan’s perspective, these are good selling points.

    Just saying.

  8. For location, on the peninsula would be a bad idea unless you can extend the 102. It would need to be close to the highway. Bayers lake, or more rural like bedford west which will have a new highway going through it. Bedford west would be 20 minutes from downtown Halifax, and about 45 minutes from Truro, meaning about 1.5hrs from moncton, 4.5 hours from Sydney, 15 hour drive from Montreal, 2.5 hrs from pei. That’s a lot of people. 3hr drive from Yarmouth. Bedford west would be ideal

  9. I think the Stadium simply has to happen…….football, concerts etc…Halifax is always in some sort of “make do” situation. The CFL would be private owner leasing the Stadium, and I do feel there would be good attendance fi there were easy transportation and/or parking (which kind of cuts the peninsula off the list of possible sites). If you made a fiscal comparison to the cost of the new library to the cost and benefit of a new Stadium I think one would view a $25million Stadium favourably. Now that is very cheap for a stadium but it would have to be viewed as a starting pace with expansion for luxury boxes etc etc after the fact.

    I would expect Provincial donation of lands and roadways, HRM field and track cost and Feds for the construction.

    Another idea might be sell shares in a publicly owned Stadium…$25./share how many could we sell…….?

    RKD

  10. I know it’s none of my business, because I’m not from NS. But, I do enjoy watching CFL and I do want to see my team kick the crap out of a team from Halifax. Another point I’d like to make, is that Halifax is the largest city in the Atlantic and you doesn’t have an out door stadium. I get the feeling Halifax takes for granted and doesn’t appreciate its status as the hub, the center, of Atlantic Canada. In other parts of Canada, we never hear a peep out of quiet boring old Halifax. It does nothing to facilitate cuture, entertainment, the arts, or sporting events for the east coast.

    You need to step up to the plate and start acting like the metropolis that you are. You need to grow up as a city. Guys, do yourselves a favour … get a stadium already!!!
    and a CFL team.

  11. A stadium at Saint mary’s with the specs of 15,000 perm and 15 ,000temp with later ability to expand perm seats will be the quickest way to get a stadium, otherwise the CFL and Halifax will be at least 10 yers away. The CFL wants team 10 sooner

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