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Halifax Wanderers make pitch for new stadium

Halifax Wanderers president and founder Derek Martin has made his pitch for a new stadium.

“We’re willing to be a financial partner, and that enables a stadium to be built,” said Martin, who has asked the HRM to spend $40 million to transform the historic Halifax Wanderers Grounds into a permanent 8,500 seat venue which could be expanded to hold more than 13,000.

The new stadium would feature artificial turf with a bubble dome to allow year-round use.

According to Martin, the Wanderers have outgrown the current temporary pop-up venue.

“It has metal bleachers, a lack of running water and fans have to use portable toilets,” said Martin. “Fans can’t have food or beverage concessions on site and we can only have food trucks because there’s no running water for people to wash their hands. We also have insufficient locker rooms.”

The city would own the stadium and Martin is willing to sign a 30 year lease to help secure a viable business plan.

“If he’s offering a 30 year lease, that should go a long way towards covering the entire cost,” said HRM Councillor Waye Mason.

The original plan to transform the Wanderers Grounds into a short-term, modular stadium venue was part of a pilot project launched in 2017.

“Our current agreement allows us to play until the end of the 2024 season,” said Martin, who added the Wanderers currently pay the city $2,800 per game for rent.

A new stadium would also host concerts, high school football games, and maybe even future CFL touchdown Atlantic Games.

“I think that’s exactly what it should be used for,” said Martin. “It should be used to test out the viability of the CFL in Halifax, long-term.”

An inside-view render of the stadium pitched by the Halifax Wanderers.Howard Epstein is with the Friends of the Halifax Common. Epstein is against the city building stadium on common land at the Wanderers Grounds. He also doesn’t want the team to have exclusive use of a public facility. He also added the price tag is too high.

“Martin wants the HRM to bank roll it, to the tune of $40 million,” said Epstein, who added, his group will fight hard to block the stadium project. “We are going to take this issue to court.”

Mason pointed out, sports events with huge crowds have actually been taking place at the Wanderers grounds for a long time.

“Going back 140 years,” said Mason.

Before a Wanderers Grounds stadium project is approved, HRM staff will present a report to council and the issue will require public consultation as well as a lot of debate.

Martin would like to have the $40 million for the stadium in the HRM budget by spring 2024. That would make it realistic to have a new venue built in time for the 2025 season.

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