Halifax council wants a stadium but won't plan for it

City to bid on hosting 2015 Women's World Cup of soccer

It’s cart before horse time again. It’s axiomatic that Halifax needs a new stadium, but a long-term recreation and business plan detailing exactly how such a facility would be managed and what continuing operational costs taxpayers would bear has never been produced. That didn’t stop city council Tuesday from chasing after after a stadium for a single event, long term issues be damned.

Despite a recommendation from Trade Centre Limited that the city *not* proceed, council voted to bid on the 2015 Women’s Cup of soccer. The city will pay $25,000 to enter the hosting contest, then commit to having a stadium with a minimum of 20,000 seats. Should Halifax win the bid, the city will have to provide $250,000 in “in kind” services (policing, transit and the like), $2 million paid to the Canadian Soccer Association for operational costs associated with the games and, additionally, whatever a stadium would cost, both in terms of construction and long-term operations.

TCL’s presentation to council, found at tinyurl.com/HalifaxWorldCup, is remarkably explicit about the need for long-term planning for a stadium. “HRM staff [should] continue a long-term approach to scoping and planning a multi-purpose outdoor venue that meets community needs and incorporates flexibility for future major event opportunities,” reads the report, which suggests that those planning issues be further studied. Moreover, warns the presentation, the timelines for submitting the bid to the Canadian Soccer Association are so tight that they “do not allow for proper due diligence on venue feasibility, public input or funding partnerships.”

Still, council voted to proceed with the bid on a voice vote. “We’ve got to jump start a stadium,” says councillor Fisher, who made the motion to continue. “Tying it to an event is the only way we’ll get one.”

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