Stadium-bashing has evolved into a far more popular and fun sport around here than football ever will be. The flames of public ridicule and horror are amply fanned by the announcement of some eye-watering costs to be taxpayer-funded, followed by the protracted absence of any firm business proposal from Maritime Football.
The latest: Shannon Park's "grand stadium" plans have been scaled down to a cute college-style facility. If you'd like to get a feel for how much of a thriving community hub it will (or won't) be check out the Wanderers Grounds off Sackville Street.
Nothing underlines our stadium tunnel-vision more than the forgotten alternatives. What else could we do with this prime land? Could it benefit the community and local economy more without pro-sport allurement?
Shannon Park enjoys close proximity to our urban core, killer views over downtown and the Bedford Basin, a unique history and an awesome coastal landscape. It's an opportunity to showcase our renewed enthusiasm for reducing sprawl by creating a walkable urban community which has everything onsite—housing, shops, employment, green spaces and a school.
Public consultations in 2015 revealed our desire for a mixed use development with ample green spaces, waterfront access and an emphasis on people, not cars. We asked that the heritage of the area including the Mi'kmaq settlement at Tufts Cove be respected.
Shannon Park is owned by Canada Lands Company (CLC), the federal government's real estate and redevelopment corporation. It's still waiting for approval from Halifax Regional Municipality of their comprehensive concept plans submitted back in December 2016, and says it's been ready to build since the summer of 2017.
Could Shannon Park work as simply a great place to live, work, play and explore? Can we trust CLC's decades of experience with distilling liveable places from public opinion? And vitally for the taxpayer, their ability to self-finance projects? Or do renderings released last month on Twitter by Architecture49 announcing the Atlantic Schooners and Sport Nova Scotia's plans for a Shannon Park Community Stadium mean a loophole has been found and the stadium is inevitable?
- Look at all those fans: Beer-drinking, fry-scarfing, car-driving football enthusiasts.
Why the scurrying at our expense to justify and deliver a stadium-cum-aquarium? Isn't taxpayer cash for essential services? Instead of staff working out a business case to support this expensive enticement, they could work out the revenue and jobs created from CLC's current plans for Shannon Park.
Then estimate the cost of losing the proposed services, workplaces and homes to the 20 acres of land Maritime Football want including occasionally used car parking space, and the suggested hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds required to buy, build and maintain a temple for football worshippers.
Maybe that commercial analysis will provide us with renewed enthusiasm and gratitude for the Moosehead and Wanderer action we can enjoy right here and now in Halifax, also CLC's on-the-table and ready to go self-funded proposal?
Martyn Williams is an Englishman who is here for the hockey, warm hospitality and awesome nature. He is also an advocate for improved safety for vulnerable road users, founding facebook group HRM Safe Streets for Everyone.
Opinionated is a rotating column by Halifax writers featured regularly in The Coast. The views published are those of the author.