Halifax temporary stadium holds first event
Halifax's new stadium is preparing to host its first major event. While it's not a CFL stadium, it is part of a growing trend that sees Halifax being considered for professional and amateur sporting events. But some are wondering if there could be such a thing as too much sport in one city.
The final touches are being put on Halifax’s new temporary stadium in preparation for Saturday’s international rugby test match between the Canadian and American Men’s National teams.
“We’ve officially sold out the event, so we’ll have over 6000 fans packing into the Wanderers Grounds to watch what should be a fantastic international rugby match,” says Derek Martin, owner and president of Sports Entertainment Atlantic.
The ‘Battle of the Border’ will be the first event to be held at the historic Wanderers Grounds after council approved the building of a temporary stadium at the newly renovated field this past April.
“Just to see what we’ve been talking about the past couple years with this venue, and what we thought it could become, and to see it now actually all come together like it was planned out, it’s quite a great moment,” says Martin.
The new field passes the eye test for Canadian rugby legend Al Charron, one of only three Canadians to be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.
“For the most part, I don’t miss playing,” says Charron, who made 76 appearances with the Canadian national team from 1990-2003. “But you come to an event like this you get excited. You get excited as a rugby fan, but also as a past player, and you want to be out on the field. Just look at it, it looks awesome!”
Next spring, the temporary stadium will be home to Halifax’s new professional soccer franchise, Halifax Wanderers FC. And there could be more pro sports options coming to Halifax in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s a reasonably large market of say, half a million people in the greater Halifax area, and it’s an untapped market, so all of the leagues are looking at Halifax because it fulfills that kind of Canadian market completion,” says Moshe Lander, an economics professor at Concordia University who specializes in the economics of professional sports.
Rumours of a professional lacrosse franchise in Halifax have been circulating for years. Last week the website insidelacrosse.com reported that Halifax could see a National Lacrosse League franchise begin play in the 2019-20 season.
The NLL is a box lacrosse league, meaning games are inside on a hockey rink covered by an artificial turf playing surface. Any Halifax franchise would likely play at the Scotiabank Centre, and the NLL season runs from December to June, meaning the lacrosse team could be sharing the season with Halifax Mooseheads hockey and Halifax Hurricanes basketball.
Lander warns that there may be such a thing as too many sports options for Halifax to support them all.
“The issue is how many fans are there to support three teams that are running in the same winter season, that are all going to be competing for limited disposable income,” says Lander.
Representatives from the National Lacrosse League confirmed that the league is expanding, but wouldn’t confirm or deny Halifax is a target.
“The National Lacrosse League is expanding as a result of a growth strategy that has been evolving over the last 24 months. We are fortunate to have great owners who believe in the ongoing investment in the NLL in order to elevate the league to attract significant ownership groups for expansion. We continue to explore these opportunities with targeted groups, but those ongoing conversations are confidential. We look forward to the continued cultivation of the NLL as we focus on executing our 5-year strategy for expansion,” Ashley Dabb, National Lacrosse League Chief Marketing Officer said in a statement to CTV News.
Martin says he’s not worried about sports saturation affecting the city’s new soccer team, when they hit the field in the spring of 2019.
“I think we’ve got a very different market, and the time of year that we have, I think people will be excited. Especially when they see what the event looks like (Saturday), and picture themselves here in the sun, enjoying a cold beverage. I think they’ll be really excited to watch some soccer,” says Martin.
For now, Martin and his team are concentrating on this weekend’s action, before they hand off to the next big event hoping to entertain Halifax sports fans.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.