Posts Tagged ‘Halifax Nova Scotia’

The optimism surrounding yet another attempt at CFL expansion to Atlantic Canada has been extremely cautious. Besides, many have said they’ve been here before only to have the conversation fall flat.

But since Anthony Leblanc and his business team, Maritime Football, made serious their intention to bring a team to Nova Scotia during Grey Cup week last November, it’s felt different.

Even CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has fanned the football expansion flames, saying “it’s the unfulfilled part of our national dream to have the Maritimes have a football team,” and that it would be a “defining moment” to have a team in the Maritimes.

They’ve all been saying the right things.

Now though, the dream of having a 10th CFL team has reached a pivotal point in the process, one Leblanc says will determine whether or not this will actually happen.

On Tuesday, Halifax regional council approved a motion to begin discussions with Leblanc’s group and the province about the viability of a team and a stadium.

“I think everybody should continue to have the optimism we’ve had all along,” Leblanc told CBC Sports ahead of the vote. “We wouldn’t be getting into a phase of public discussion if we felt we didn’t have good chances of making this happen.”

Leblanc said his team has had a number of conversations with elected officials over the last number of weeks and believes there’s enough support to continue this venture and feels comfortable they’ll be able to move forward.

He said his hope is that administration moves quickly while looking over their proposal to bring a team to Halifax.

“People will say you can’t put deadlines on this, but candidly, we can because we’re the group that’s planning to do this and if we don’t feel we’re moving the ball down the field, we need to look at what our next steps are.”

The deadline Leblanc has suggested is four to six weeks — they want this done by Labour Day. The reason? If they’re able to move forward with the project ahead of Labour Day, they want to start a season-ticket drive for football fans in the region to support a team.

It would be right around this same time — if everything goes as planned — that Leblanc also hopes to have the CFL award Maritime Football a conditional franchise.

But what about the stadium?

Leblanc knows building a stadium and its location are the most important parts of this expansion puzzle. Last week it was reported Maritime Football had narrowed the choice down to two spots. However, that’s since changed.

“That’s speculation,” Leblanc said. “We haven’t publicly confirmed which sites we’re looking at.”

Those two reported sites were Dartmouth Crossing and a property behind the Kent store in Bayers Lake business park. Leblanc says they’ve brought in a new group to help them look more closely at a number of different spots that would be best suited for a multi-purpose development.

“They’ve been working with us for the last several months and I think it’s fair to say we’re somewhat back to the drawing board because they want to understand all the sites.”

Leblanc said they’ve looked at seven locations a stadium could be built.

“What we’re doing over the next two weeks is reaffirming the sites we’ve narrowed down are the right sites. We’re being incredibly thoughtful on this.”

He added the only way they’ll be able to make a stadium situation work is that if it includes the multi-purpose model.

Premier says taxpayers won’t pay for stadium

Last week Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil made it clear taxpayers won’t be on the hook for a CFL stadium in Halifax.

“General revenue is not part of our conversation. I’m not reaching into general revenue to build a football stadium,” he told CBC News.

McNeil said he will wait for the formal ask to discuss how the government might contribute to the stadium, but was clear it wouldn’t come from general revenue.

“If you have another option, you have a new idea of how I can help, feel free to come and ask,” he said. “But don’t come in and expect I’m going to write you a cheque.”

Leblanc says that was never their expectation and interprets the premier’s message this way.

“What he means by that, from what we’ve been told, is they don’t want to see provincial dollars that have already been designated being utilized. We’ve never contemplated that,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc feels new money can be generated from the project and can be put toward building a new stadium.

“We understand as the private sector we have to participate this in a very healthy manner,” Leblanc said.

 

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A group of businessmen with ties to Eastern Canada would like to make the Canadian Football League’s dream of a tenth franchise come true in Halifax.

The group made a presentation to the league’s board of governors several weeks ago in Toronto. Meetings have since taken place with various levels of government in Nova Scotia, including an in-camera session with Halifax city council this week that was attended by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

“We have had discussions with the CFL’s board of governors and ongoing discussions with commissioner Ambrosie,” said Anthony LeBlanc, a partner in the group and former president and CEO of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

“The conversations have all been very productive. Chief among all we have discussed, we have a clear understanding of the CFL’s requirements for an expansion franchise, and this clarity is allowing us to move our project forward in a thoughtful way.”

Along with LeBlanc, whose family is from New Brunswick and who began his business career in the province, the group includes Bruce Bowser, a Halifax native who is currently president of AMJ Campbell Van Lines, and Gary Drummond, a businessman from Regina who was president of hockey operations for the Coyotes.

A league spokesman confirmed it had received an expression of interest for a Halifax franchise but said that a process and timetable for awarding a team has yet to be established.

One CFL source described the group’s presentation as “very credible.”

The Halifax group is modelling its plan on that of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which received a conditional franchise from the CFL in 2008 and then redeveloped Frank Clair Stadium and the land surrounding it.

It’s believed the Halifax group would like to have a conditional franchise granted before the start of the 2018 CFL season, with a goal of beginning play as soon as 2020.

The potential owners want to brand the franchise to identity not just with Halifax but all of Atlantic Canada.

Halifax mayor Mike Savage has been on record as saying he would like to see his city host a CFL franchise. Sources say discussions with Savage and members of his council have been very positive over the past few months.

Central to the idea is the construction of a multi-purpose stadium, at one of several locations currently being explored – one of which is the Shannon Park, located next to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge.

Commissioner Ambrosie is expected to update the league’s board of governors on the state of the Halifax proposal when they meet the day before Grey Cup Sunday.

Besides expanding the league’s television footprint into Atlantic Canada, a Halifax-based franchise would allow the league to create two five-team divisions and avoid the number of bye weeks required with a nine-team league.

The CFL awarded a conditional franchise to a Halifax group in 1982 under the name Atlantic Schooners but the financing to build a suitable stadium never materialized.

Dating back to the mid-1980s, the CFL has staged exhibition games in Halifax. In 2010, 2011 and 2013 it played three regular-season games in Moncton, N.B.