Season ticket drive begins for Halifax's non-existent CFL team

Pay $50 for the chance to buy discounted tickets on a team that doesn't yet exist who will play in a stadium that's not even approved.

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CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie (left) addresses the media while MFLP partner Anthony LeBlanc watches. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • VIA YOUTUBE
  • CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie (left) addresses the media while MFLP partner Anthony LeBlanc watches.

Atlantic Canadians who want to vote for the name of Halifax's new CFL team will first need to fork over a $50 deposit on season tickets for a team that may never exist.

Maritime Football Limited Partnership and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie held a news conference Wednesday at Saint Mary’s University announcing the ticket drive and naming contest as they once again look to build public interest in a franchise calling Atlantic Canada home.

The potential 10th CFL team would expand the league from coast to coast, fulfilling what commissioner Ambrosie called “unfinished business” for football fans.

“I think it is the unfinished piece of business that has been on the hearts and minds of football fans for decades,” he said.

Anyone putting down a deposit with TicketMaster will be placed on a priority list to purchase discounted season tickets at a future time, should Halifax ever officially be awarded a team.

The CFL's go-ahead for that decision will be conditional on whether the new Atlantic Canadian football team will have a place to play.

“For this to become a reality, we have to have a stadium,” said Anthony LeBlanc, partner with MFLP.

Halifax council is currently awaiting a staff report analysing the business case for the 24,000-seat stadium MFLP wants to build on 20 acres of Shannon Park in Dartmouth.

Who exactly will pay for the $190-million stadium is still up in the air. Maritime Football has previously said it expects HRM to be “involved at the table in some fashion” when it comes to covering the stadium's debt.

“It’s probably the most substantial hurdle that we’ll cross,” LeBlanc said about figuring out the stadium funding.

Bruce Bowser, another partner with MFLP, grew up in Shannon Park. Although he now lives in Toronto, Bowser's second house is here in Halifax and every time he visits the city he says he becomes more and more convinced that now is the time for HRM to give his organization money. 

“To come here and see the new Trade Centre and the crowds it brings, I think the time is right for the Maritimes to have a team,” Bowser said about the long-delayed albatross that's going to cost HRM million of dollars more than originally expected.

In an “exclusive Q&A” from the CFL, LeBlanc says he's already had “a lot of one-on-ones” lobbying individual city councillors in an effort to combat “misinformation” from the public about the stadium.

“We’re certainly not looking for any type of handout, so to speak. We’re looking for people to look at the proposal,” LeBlanc tells CFL. “The problem is because it’s a stadium, people get polarized and it becomes very political. We’re hoping everyone takes off their opinionated hat and sort of looks at everything through a clear lens.”

“There hasn’t been a single stadium built in North America that doesn’t have some sort of public involvement,” LeBlanc told reporters two weeks ago. “I don’t see how we can continue with a stadium proposal that does not involve at least HRM and the province, if not the federal government.”

Council's stadium report is due back within six months. Maritime Football wants to start construction next summer, with hopes that a team could be fielded by the 2020 season—even if the stadium takes another year to complete. LeBlanc said on Wednesday he’s open to playing the first season in Moncton if Halifax isn’t ready.

In the meantime, the group plans to start a public engagement process for its proposal, which will include handing a detailed business case over to the city to examine and pushing its pre-orders for season tickets.

LeBlanc said the “artificial threshold” for success will be if they can sell 12,000 season tickets to fill half of the 24,000-seat stadium. Customers will be limited to 10 deposits on season tickets per account.

Putting down a deposit also allows people to vote in a contest to name the team, choosing from four pre-selected options or submitting one of their own.

The shortlisted names include the Atlantic Admirals, Atlantic Convoy, Atlantic Schooners and Atlantic Storm.

Only one of those names—Schooners—has already been trademarked by MFLP and the organization “reserves the right” to have final say in the name.

The team name will be announced during Grey Cup weekend later this month.

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