With lots of qualifiers and making sure there are “off ramps” to reverse direction, if needed, Halifax council Tuesday night agreed in concept to spending $20 million for a potential $60 million stadium, so long as the provincial and federal governments pay the other $40 million. Never mind that there’s no actual plan for a stadium, or that that the $60 million figured was pulled from thin air or that both the other levels of government are on record as refusing to pay for a stadium---city staff said they needed council’s agreement in order to negotiate, and councillors grudgingly voted to give it.
The city is chasing a potential bid as one of seven Canadian cities to host the 2015 FIFA’s women’s world cup of soccer; Halifax won’t be in contention for that bid unless it has a stadium that can’t hold up to 20,000 people, at least with temporary seats. Such a stadium won’t be suitable for a CFL team, and a committee is trying to figure out what else the stadium could be used for after the two-weekend FIFA event.
Backers say The FIFA tournament is the opportunity to leverage federal funds for a stadium, but representatives from Trade Centre Limited said last year that the timelines for chasing the FIFA bid were too tight to conduct “due diligence” related to financing and a business case for the stadium. Council rejected that advice and pursued the bid anyway, so far committing about $400,000 for the chase.
FIFA wants a firm commitment by December, but a consultant’s recommendation for a site and specific stadium plans isn’t due back until that month; it’s not clear how that proposal will then be vetted by both the federal and provincial governments, which conduct their own quite detailed analyses of such proposals, and then funding decisions reached, all by the end of the year. But city staff insists it will all work out in the end.