Maritimers, Halifax Mayor weigh in on potential CFL expansion
Published Friday, November 17, 2017 7:49PM AST
Last Updated Friday, November 17, 2017 9:01PM AST
Maritimers are chiming in after the Canadian Football League confirmed it's in talks with a group of prospective owners rallying for a Halifax franchise.
TSN reported that meetings have taken place with various levels of government including an in-camera session with Halifax council this week, attended by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.
Halifax Mayor, Mike Savage says the bid for expansion in Halifax is “leaps and bounds” ahead of past bids and he’s been aware of the ongoing discussions.
He assures that the stadium in Halifax doesn’t remain a priority of the municipality.
“Any proposal would need to be private sector led and make economic sense for the municipality. While this is early stages, we are aware of a serious proposal from serious, experienced people. They have worked together to develop a real proposal,” says Savage.
Savage told CTV News the group that came to him started with a few people and became larger after a number of months. Savage says he told the group that the municipality will not “put tens of millions of dollars into it (the stadium) upfront.”
Savage says there are four pieces of land the group are considering and the potential stadium wouldn’t be located in the downtown Halifax area.
A number of people involved with potential expansion suggest it could follow Ottawa’s model. The Ottawa group was awarded a conditional franchise and they redeveloped the stadium, surrounding it with residential and commercial development.
Football fan, Arron Page says he’s excited about the prospect of a CFL team coming to his home city.
Page says he became a lifetime fan of the sport on the day the Touchdown Atlantic Exhibition game between Toronto Argos and Hamilton Ticats was held in Halifax in 2005.
Now a local high school football coach, Page says he hopes the bid will go forward.
“I’m catching football fever,” he says. “I guess the guys that are putting this together have the funds to get it done.”
While fans from the football community like Page may be eager for possible expansion in the East, some remain cautiously optimistic.
Former Football Canada president and current IFAF president, Richard MacLean says he’s remaining wary of the bid.
“My heart would say yes, my gut says I’ve got to wait,” MacLean says. “We’ve been through this before, we been to the step before cut following out if needed for time.”
MacLean says CFL commissioners have come to Halifax in the past, but he questions whether the city will have the financial means to uphold a national stadium.
“Do we have that ownership group that’s going to have the deep pockets to get the job done?’ That remains to be seen.”
In the 1980’s, the Atlantic Schooners were named a conditional Canadian Football League expansion team, but they couldn't secure funding for a stadium and the deal fumbled 13 months later.
Football fan and business advisor, Ed McHugh says he hopes this time will be different.
“Let's not get negative, let's have a serious look at it at this idea and see if it can work,” McHugh says.
People on the East Coast have also weighed in on social media with plenty in favour of the bid, but others unhappy with the potential expense of taxpayers.
Officials say this bid is different because the private enterprise won’t come from public dollars, but some are concerned because fans will have to fill the seats.
A few took to social media to dispute the bid’s location as Moncton was considered to be the front runner for an expansion team in the past. Some argue that Moncton has a stadium already in place and the ability to draw from a fan base of 1.3 million people living within a two hour drive of the city.
Moncton city councilor, Greg Turner says he’s excited for the Maritimes in its entirety.
“In Atlantic Canada there's really room for only one major franchise and if it tends to be Halifax, we applaud them for that and look forward to working together in harmony for sure,” says Turner.
He also says he’s confident any bitterness over losing the expansion team to Halifax will be overcome and believes people from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will also support the location.
Moncton football fan, Norval McConnell says he waited a long time to cheer on a team on his home coast. He assures he will be the first in line for season tickets.
“I’m ecstatic that Halifax is showing the interest and doing the work and that there's a group that seems to be prepared to move forward,” says McConnell. “Its great news for football fans on the east coast.”
Moncton-area conservative MLA, Brian Kierstead says the payoff of having a professional football team is too great to give up now.
“I think if the people of New Brunswick buckle down I’m sure they could pull something together and it would be an excellent opportunity for us in the long run,” Kierstead says.
The proposal is said to request a conditional franchise be awarded in 2018, with games to begin in 2020.
A team in Halifax would be the CFL’s 10th franchise.