GET YOUR SEASON TICKETS
(Worry about getting an actual franchise later)
Sports economics expert on why a CFL season-ticket drive planned for Halifax may be a tad premature
The group pushing for a professional football team and stadium in Halifax is expected to announce a season-ticket drive and team-naming contest on Wednesday, but a sports economist suggests the effort may be premature.
In a news release on Tuesday, Maritime Football Limited Partnership (MFLP) invited media to a “special announcement” with Canadian Football League (CFL) commissioner Randy Ambrosie at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax on Wednesday.
Halifax regional council voted in favour of a staff report last week looking at a thorough business case for a stadium on the Shannon Park lands in Dartmouth. That staff report, which will look at the controversial plan to fund the stadium as well as associated infrastructure costs, is expected to take six months.
In the meantime, a report to council said MFLP plans to launch a season-ticket drive and team-naming contest this month.
“The issue with a season-ticket drive now is that there’s so many uncertainties that it’s kind of hard to read whether there’s support for a CFL franchise,” sports economist and Concordia University professor Moshe Lander said in an interview.
“Unless, of course, there is overwhelming season ticket support.”
Lander, who spends about two months of the year in Halifax working at Dalhousie University, said there would be better ways to gauge public support at this juncture, like opinion polling.
“There’s so many other ways that you could effectively do this,” he said.
“I think that this is trying to maybe force the city’s hand to put up money more than it is to gauge whether there’s a CFL franchise there.”
It’s unclear how much money Halifax is being asked to put up. MFLP founding partner Anthony Leblanc would not answer specific questions about the proposed financing arrangement after council’s vote last week, and it looks like Halifax could be on the hook for the entire capital cost of a stadium — up to $190 million.
“There still isn’t a concrete — no pun intended — stadium in place,” Lander said. “And it’s not clear, even if there were a stadium, even if they’re going to go ahead with that ridiculous Shannon Park location, it’s not clear when there’s going to be a team.”
The goal is 2021, but Lander suggested MFLP might be rushing that. He’d rather see the group take its time and find a better location.
Lander thinks Shannon Park is an “antiquated,” 1960s-style stadium location, where everyone’s expected to drive to the game and then drive home afterwards.
“The last 20 years, the trend has been: you build the stadium where people are. You make it part of the neighbourhood, you make it part of the background of what’s going on,” he said. “You don’t make it the basis for all future construction in the neighbourhood.”
That doesn’t mean season tickets won’t sell though.
Lander noted that the CFL season is different from the Halifax Mooseheads’ as well as that of the lacrosse franchise starting next season, but said people only have so much disposable income to spend on sports tickets.
“How on earth can you ask 24,000 fans, 10,000 fans to put down money three years out, where most people don’t even know where they’re going to be in three years time, or what their job’s going to look like? And Nova Scotia is such an up and down sort of economy. It’s very cyclical. That’s a big ask,” Lander said. Read on at thestar.com/halifax
“THERE STILL ISN’T A CONCRETE — NO PUN INTENDED — STADIUM IN PLACE.” Moshe Lander, sports economist
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie tosses a football as he speaks during a press conference in Toronto on July 5, 2017. Ambrosie is headed to Halifax this week for an announcement with the group proposing a franchise in the city.