(Worry about get­ting an ac­tual fran­chise later)

StarMetro Halifax - - FRONT PAGE - ZANE WOOD­FORD

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 thes­­i­fax

“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.

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