Well, whadda ya know?
[i]Is Moncton beating us to the punch for CFL team?
The Daily News
Football-starved Haligonians in Toronto this past weekend were abuzz, but not because of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Grey Cup victory. World Trade Centre boss Fred MacGillivray was spotted yakking with new Canadian Football League commissioner Mark Cohon, re-kindling speculation about a league franchise for Halifax.
Unfortunately, it was not Halifax making a pitch for a Canadian Football League franchise over the Grey Cup weekend, and once again it looks like we're being out-hustled by those sly foxes living to the north of us in Moncton.
MacGillivray was in Toronto for the football festivities, but wasn't making a pitch on Halifax's behalf for a professional franchise, at least not last weekend. He's done so in the past and the league has expressed an interest in coming East, naming Halifax as one of its preferred locations. This past weekend, however, Fred was there for pleasure, not business.
The city of Moncton on the other hand, sent an entire team of bureaucrats to Toronto, led by the New Brunswick town's equivalent of MacGillivray, Ian Fowler. Fowler's the brains behind a series of Moncton coups including the first Rolling Stones concert at Magnetic Hill.
Fowler wouldn't reveal much about his trip when I reached him this week. "Crazy rumours" he snorted when I asked him if Moncton was hitting on the commissioner to come East. He denied he was seeking a franchise for Moncton but offered a terse "no comment" to several other variations of my questions on Moncton's interest.
I accused him of being up to no good. "Not telling," was his coy response. A chuckle ended our conversation.
Curses, I said to myself. The *&#&^!! Monctonians are up to something.
Moncton Mayor Lorne Mitton was a little more forthcoming - politicians generally are - but he wouldn't reveal much. "I'm not aware of any specific discussions in regards to a CFL franchise," he answered with as much honesty as he could muster. His use of the word "specific" had my spidey senses tingling, so I pressed on. I told him, I knew his henchman was in Toronto, perhaps sniffing around about the possibility. "We had people there," he confessed. "They were instructed to come back to show us what might be required."
The jig was up. And once more it seems the mighty city of Halifax, claiming to be the regional centre, could be outdone by a relative hamlet by comparison. Moncton has a new convention centre in the works. It's also getting a 10,000 seat open-air stadium to host the world under-19 track and field championship in 2010, a stadium Fowler did tell me could be expanded. And now this, a covert effort to bring the Canadian Football League to Moncton.
There are plans on the drawing board in Winnipeg for a new football stadium. Toronto, already with more stadiums than Canada has provinces it seems, was recently given $67 million from the Harper government to build a new soccer stadium for the city's professional soccer team. Quebec City's recently been making noises about a pro football team.
Other cities are out there hustling while we're hurling insults at one another over a dissed diva's bruised ego or spending hour upon hour debating the licensing of cats.
We have no stadium and it seems, with the collapse of the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid, nobody is in any hurry to get one built.
Fred MacGillivray says the ball's in the city's court. "Until someone says they want to build a stadium, talk of a CFL franchise is a moot point," he told me.
I asked Mayor Peter Kelly if there's been any recent talk of a Halifax CFL team, especially in light of the league's growing popularity. "We'd need a bit of a building to go with that," he replied. He also reminded me there's talk of the need for an expanded Trade Centre, perhaps taking over the current Metro Centre and building a new arena. He says such a project would cost upwards of $200 million.
Would adding another $50 or $60 million for an open air stadium break the bank? Not likely, especially considering the city was prepared to spend $200 million as its share of the Commonwealth Games. While its not likely we could expect much help from the nearly bankrupt provincial government, the federal government's flush with cash these days. The Harperites have been dishing out millions across the country. With an election likely by spring, if not earlier, why not strike now?
Halifax needs a boost, but while Moncton seems to recognize the timing's good to chase down a dream, this city is stuck in neutral. Whether it's shellshock over the Commonwealth Games debacle or those embarrassing concert failures, our movers and shakers seem prepared to let another one slip by.
Rick Howe is the host of the radio talk show Hotline, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on AM920 CJCH and on the Internet at cjch.ca. [/i]