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HRM coun­cil votes unan­i­mously in favour of con­sid­er­ing a pro­posed CFL sta­dium in Dart­mouth’s Shan­non Park

StarMetro Halifax - - FRONT PAGE - ZANE WOOD­FORD

But many coun­cil­lors still have ques­tions about the fi­nan­cial de­tails thes­tar.com

A foot­ball fran­chise and sta­dium is a step closer to re­al­ity, but se­ri­ous ques­tions re­main about the fi­nan­cial risk in­volved for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Hal­i­fax re­gional coun­cil voted unan­i­mously in favour of a staff re­port on a busi­ness case anal­y­sis of the Shan­non Park sta­dium pro­posal on Tues­day. The mo­tion passed will also see mu­nic­i­pal staff work with the pro­vin­cial government on a long list of nec­es­sary leg­isla­tive amend­ments and po­ten­tial fund­ing sources.

It also means the pro­po­nents, Maritime Foot­ball Lim­ited Part­ner­ship (MFLP), will start con­sult­ing the pub­lic on their plans for a 24,000-seat sta­dium in Shan­non Park in Dart­mouth to host a CFL ex­pan­sion team for the 2021 season.

“There’s a lot of play­ers at the ta­ble, but I think ul­ti­mately there’s op­ti­mism that we can do this, as long as every­body is at the ta­ble un­der­stand­ing what the shared risk is,” An­thony Leblanc, found­ing part­ner of MFLP, told re­porters after the vote.

“We’ll move the ball down the field.”

Build­ing the sta­dium would cost be­tween $170 mil­lion and $190 mil­lion, but it’s still un­clear who’s foot­ing that bill.

Leblanc said MFLP would take on the op­er­a­tional risk of the sta­dium, mean­ing the on­go­ing costs once it’s built. He pegged those at $3 mil­lion an­nu­ally or more.

“We plan on be­ing the sole group at risk in re­gard to the op­er­a­tions of the fa­cil­ity,” he said.

He wouldn’t say whether MFLP would need ei­ther the mu­nic­i­pal or pro­vin­cial government to guar­an­tee the loan.

“We would need government in­volved at the ta­ble in some fash­ion in re­gards to how the

loan struc­ture is put to­gether. I don’t have an an­swer for you on that,” he said.

Dur­ing Tues­day’s coun­cil meeting, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Jac­ques Dubé told coun­cil­lors that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity wouldn’t own the sta­dium or the debt.

“We’re not look­ing to take con­struc­tion risk. We’re not look­ing to take fi­nan­cial risk on the project,” he said.

Dubé’s plan to pay for the sta­dium is a con­tro­ver­sial fi­nanc­ing model called Tax In­cre­ment Fi­nanc­ing (TIF). The mu­nic­i­pal­ity would cre­ate a TIF district around the sta­dium, and the prop­erty taxes from the com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment planned in that area would os­ten­si­bly pay for the debt fi­nanc­ing costs — $9 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

It’s a sim­i­lar model to one used for the Nova Cen­tre in down­town Hal­i­fax, where coun­cil planned to pay for its share of the con­ven­tion cen­tre us­ing the prop­erty taxes from the project as a whole. That’s not work­ing out, but Dubé said it’ll be dif­fer­ent this time.

“The main dif­fer­ence is, the TIF model would be, what­ever the TIF gen­er­ates is what would be re­turned,” he said.

“There would be no fi­nan­cial risk to HRM un­der a TIF model as com­pared to the other model. That’s the ma­jor dif­fer­ence here.”

Mayor Mike Sav­age said the math didn’t add up for him, but he wants more in­for­ma­tion.

“I don’t re­ally yet have my head around how the TIF works. It doesn’t make sense to me, ‘Well if we don’t col­lect it, we don’t pay it.’ That seems like,

there’s gotta be more to it than that,” he said dur­ing de­bate.

But Sav­age doesn’t have any doubts about the lo­ca­tion — “I think a sta­dium at Shan­non Park would be com­pletely awe­some” — or the vi­a­bil­ity of a CFL team — “I have ab­so­lutely no doubt that foot­ball will be suc­cess­ful if it comes to Hal­i­fax. I know that in my heart.”

Leblanc is go­ing to set out to prove that in the com­ing months with a season-ticket drive and a team-nam­ing con­test.

“We feel very good about the po­ten­tial, but we need to go out and see if it’s real,” he said. “If there’s no season ticket holder base, quite can­didly, I don’t think any­body wants to pro­ceed.”

“THERE’S OP­TI­MISM WE CAN DO THIS.” An­thony Leblanc, Maritime Foot­ball Lim­ited part­ner

JEFF HARPER/STARMETRO FILE PHOTO

Shan­non Park, the pro­posed site of a mixed-use sta­dium in Dart­mouth, was used for mil­i­tary hous­ing from the 1950s un­til the early 2000s.

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