Scott Stinson: A year after Atlantic Schooners announcement, the would-be CFL team is still working on a home
Commissioner Randy Ambrosie will deliver his state-of-the-league address on Friday. The state of the would-be Schooners will require all of his cheerleading talents
Schooners Sports and Entertainment, fronted by former Arizona Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc, announced last spring that it had tentative plans in place to build a stadium on the Dartmouth waterfront, at the site of the former Shannon Park military base. Rather than a 24,000-seat building as originally envisioned, they instead imagined a 12,000-seat “community” stadium to be mostly built with public money, with SSE building temporary stands to bring it up to CFL size. If all went well — if the Schooners were a hit — then those temporary stands would eventually become a real grandstand. This “phased-in” approach would eliminate some of the risk associated with building a large stadium in a small market, it was said. But SSE was still working out the financial particulars.
So, not great. SSE responded to this near-death experience with a revised proposal that was submitted late last week. Much of the new proposal is dedicated to emphasizing how awesome the old proposal was. “This is the best deal for (Halifax) and, in fact, better than any stadium jurisdiction in North America,” it says. That part is underlined. SSE also now promises to be responsible for any cost overruns and says it is open to not owning the facility if that’s what the municipality would prefer. It also has scrapped most of the previous mechanisms for covering the city’s share of the funding in favour of one: a ticket surcharge and tax-increment financing. It says the city would get new tax revenue from commercial developments that would only happen if the stadium is built — an important distinction — and it also imagines a $10 per ticket surcharge that would cover, at least, the early years of the city’s share, when the new tax revenue would not yet be realized.
But major questions remain. The stadium would be built with an upfront loan, paid back over three decades. Austin points out that if the Schooners flop, SSE could simply declare bankruptcy and walk away, with governments left holding the bag. There could also be significant costs for things like public transit that would require the municipality to adjust its budget plans. A $10-per-ticket surcharge is also no small thing, especially when many CFL tickets are less than $40.Read more: National Post
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