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SSE and CFL buoyed by Halifax stadium funding vote

Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE), the group seeking to develop a new stadium in the city of Halifax that would house a Canadian Football League (CFL) expansion franchise, has been granted funding for the project by Halifax Regional Municipality in what the League described as a “giant step forward” for the scheme.

Halifax councillors yesterday (Tuesday) voted 10-7 in favour of a one-time contribution of C$20m (£11.5m/€13.6m/$15.1m) towards the construction of a stadium, providing a new location is found. In September, the City of Halifax lifted the lid on a stadium proposal, which was valued at up to C$110m.

The stadium in the Shannon Park area of the city was set to have a capacity of at least 24,000 and include an inflatable winter sports dome. However, this plan was rejected last week with a recommendation that the project proceed at an alternative site.

Yesterday’s approval of funding came with the potential for the project to be killed off if the vote went the other way. However, approval does come with certain caveats, notably that the new site needs to have strong public transportation links, with the funding only being released once construction is substantially completed.

Anthony LeBlanc, founding partner of SSE, said the decision was a “watershed moment” for the business group’s project. “This could have gone very much the other way where we would have been pretty much dead in our tracks,” LeBlanc added, according to the Canadian Press news agency.

“We are excited that the process is moving forward. Now there is some teeth in this thing, there’s some real commitment from Halifax Regional Municipality, and based off conditions that we feel very comfortable that we will be able to manage.”

Halifax chief administrative officer Jacques Dube said a final funding agreement and site would need to be formally approved by council before the stadium project is given the green light. He added that provincial backing from Nova Scotia would also need to be secured.

“It’s now over to the province for them to make their decisions of if and how they will participate,” LeBlanc said. “The concepts of hotel tax levy increases and car rental taxes are simply that, ideas that are out there. But we are very open to working with the province in a manner that makes the most sense for the province.”

Commenting on the funding vote, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a statement: “Today’s vote in Halifax is a giant step forward for the plan for a new stadium there and, ultimately, the launch of a new CFL franchise in Atlantic Canada.

“There is more work ahead, of course, for the Schooners Sports and Entertainment group and the stadium project. But today represents an important milestone for everyone who shares the dream of a truly coast-to-coast CFL.”