Tuesday, Halifax council will take up the proposal for a football stadium at Shannon Park.
Specifically, council is being asked to direct staff to undertake a business case analysis of the stadium proposal and to identify financing options and legislative changes that would be required to make the proposal a reality.
There’s lots to say here, so I’ve divided the following discussion into three sections: Shannon Park, Maritime Football League Partnership, and Financing.
Halifax Council and the premier have been meeting secretly with representatives of the Maritime Football League Partnership (MFLP) for many months, and up to now not much public information has been available about the stadium proposal.
In terms of location, we heard rumours about Bedford, Bayers Lake, and Burnside. Now, however, we learn that:
MFLP has identified Shannon Park as the preferred location for a multi-purpose stadium. MFLP is currently in discussions with Canada Lands Company CLC Limited (CLC) to purchase a 15 to 20-acre site for a stadium that will include a parking structure and potentially some associated uses. Shannon Park is a 95-acre site located within the Regional Centre that was used by the Department of Defence (DND) for housing from the early 1950’s until being declared surplus in 2003. CLC acquired most of the site (86 acres) in April 2014.
Remember this map?:
That map represents the “preferred concept plan” for the redevelopment of Shannon Park, as was publicized after an April 2016 public engagement session. As Pam Berman reported for the CBC at the time:
The proposed plan was finally unveiled at a public meeting Wednesday night where it received largely positive reviews.
It includes a new field for passive recreation next to the existing elementary school, a greenway for pedestrians and cyclists that cuts across the 34 hectare site and three spots where the property’s history will be commemorated — one in each of the three coves.
Over 10 to 15 years, up to 3,000 units of housing could be built. There would be a mix of buildings with highrises located closer to the MacKay Bridge, as well as mid-rise buildings and townhouses.
People were excited about the plan. “They really did listen to the public,” Dartmouth councillor Tony Mancini told Berman.
Here’s how Dartmouth MP Darren Fisher described the Shannon Park plan:
They have built around core principles of vibrancy—having a vibrant urban centre, public realm—park and trail system, mobility—walkable space and space for bicycles, land use—using a range of building types and land uses, commemoration—revitalizing and recognizing the history of Shannon Park and its previous vibrancy, and finally utilizing the waterfront.
They believe those principles are expressed and recognized in the preferred concept. The concept draws on the Harbour Vista concept and utilizes a clear sight to the harbour from the main avenue. It also adds green space throughout the Shannon Park area with access to the three different coves that touch the park lands. Through mixing of small commercial/residential areas with a main street neighbourhood and urban living areas, Shannon Park can become a diverse hub for Dartmouth.
They have included conceptual pictures and renderings throughout the presentation to showcase how Canada Lands envision the development. Ensuring there is generous public space and green space in the area is critical to their plans and it shows throughout the presentation.
And Canada Lands started the shannonpark.ca website and the @PlanShannon Twitter account to promote the initiative.
Here’s the thing, however: the map no longer exists. It’s been scrubbed from the shannonpark.ca website: Likewise, pages detailing the timeline and other aspects of the redevelopment of Shannon Park have been removed from the site, and the site itself now is password protected.
Update, 10:25am: while the pages didn’t work for me on several browsers this morning, they now load properly.
A couple of months ago someone contacted me to talk about their concerns about Shannon Park. This person told me that they had seen a new map for the proposal, one that looked nothing at all like the map above. The new map, this person told me, was created by Clayton Developments for the Millbrook First Nation, which will own nine acres on the site. My informant told me that the new map was a traditional subdivision map, complete with single family homes on cul-de-sacs. In other words: all that “vibrant” “main street neighbourhood” stuff with high-rises, mid-rises, and townhouses was thrown right out the window.
I’ve been unable to confirm the existence of the new map, or that the April 2016 plan has been abandoned. That’s not for want of trying, however. I called the Millbrook First Nation, but got no response.
I also called Chris Miller, the director of Real Estate for Canada Lands. This was a bizarre one-way conversation. Understand, I don’t try to purposefully antagonize government workers. On the contrary, I try to be extra nice, hoping that sugar will get results. (And let’s face it, most government workers are just cogs in somebody else’s machine, so they don’t need the aggravation.) So, I politely outlined what I had heard about a new map to Miller, and asked him if it were true. He cut me off mid-sentence, and got down right aggressive with me. He attacked me — barked at me, really — for asking a simple question. I mean, he could have simply said my informant was incorrect and left it at that, wishing me a good day. So I didn’t understand the uberaggression. I still don’t.
I don’t know for sure if any of this is related to the stadium proposal, but I’m guessing that Canada Lands is in freakout mode on the collapse of its “preferred concept plan” and is therefore looking for other options.
At any event, we now have a proposal to use 15-20 acres at Shannon Park for a stadium, which will presumably include associated parking lots.
Maritime Football League Partnership
Maritime Football League Partnership (MFLP) is Bruce Bowser, Anthony Leblanc and Gary Drummond.
Bowser is the owner of Campbell Van Lines, and the local face of the enterprise. Leblanc and Drummond were co-owners of the Arizona Coyotes NHL team. Leblanc and Drummond sold their stakes in the Coyotes over an argument over a publicly financed stadium. This is what I wrote in January:
They were bought out last June  by majority owner Andrew Barroway.
The circumstances that led to that change in ownership ought to raise some eyebrows locally.
A year-and-a-half before the buyout, in September 2015, journalist Neil deMause explained the situation with the Coyotes and its stadium. (deMause is a co-author with Joanna Cagan of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit. “Since 1998,” they write, “we have been casting a critical eye on the roughly $2 billion a year in public subsidies that go toward building new pro sports facilities.” )
The story so far: The Coyotes owners had a crazy-sweetheart lease deal with Glendale that paid them almost $8 million a year just to run the arena, then Glendale officials found a loophole that would let them terminate the lease, then the two sides agreed on a new lease that expires in 2017, then Glendale announced it would put in place a competitive bidding process for who’d get to run the arena. Which sounded like a great idea — at least it would determine once and for all what the market will bear in terms of an arena management fee — to everyone except the Coyotes owners, who now say if they have to compete for the right to be paid to manage their own arena, they want no part of it.
Now, there’s nothing stopping the Coyotes from continuing to play in Glendale under someone else’s arena management, but Arizona Sports speculates that the team’s owners have other ideas:
So what does it mean for the Coyotes’ future in Glendale? LeBlanc wouldn’t comment other than to say: “We are committed to Arizona.”
Glaring in its omission from that statement was the word, “Glendale.”
While it is likely the team will remain in Glendale for the remainder of its agreement with the city, the efforts to find another home in the Valley are likely in overdrive now.
Speculation on the possibility of a new downtown arena for the Suns and Coyotes has existed for at least a year. So has the idea of building an arena along the 101 corridor in Scottsdale.
Old arena not working out financially? Just build a new one! Surely that will be the solution, and if it’s not, hopefully you’ve worked out a way to walk away from it debt-free, like you did with the previous one.
By March 2017, that “build a new stadium” idea had morphed into… a public-private partnership, reported David Baker and Dennis Welch for 3TV/CBS 5:
The head of the National Hockey League sent a strongly-worded letter to Arizona Legislature leaders that said the Arizona Coyotes need a new arena to thrive in the desert.
Gary Bettman wrote in the letter addressed to Senate President Steve Yarbrough and Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard that said the Coyotes can’t and won’t remain in Glendale.
“The Arizona Coyotes must have a new arena location to succeed,” Bettman said in the letter.
He said Glendale isn’t “economically capable” of supporting an NHL franchise.
The team echoed Bettman’s opinion in its own statement.
“The Glendale location is wrong — both geographically and economically — given its distance from much of the Coyotes’ fan base and, in particular, premium ticket holders and corporate sponsors,” Arizona Coyotes Majority Owner, Chairman and Governor Andrew Barroway said in the statement.
Bettman threw his support behind Senate Bill 1149, which would use taxpayer dollars to partially fund their new arena.
The measure would let the team use half the new sales tax generate[d] from the new arena and business district it wants built to pay off bonds.
The Coyotes have said it would invest $170 million in the area and expects the same amount from bond sales.
“The public-private partnership enabled by this legislation creates absolutely no financial risk or debt for the state nor will it make use of any existing state tax dollars,” Bettman said.
“This legislation will not require taxpayers to contribute a penny to this project out of existing state tax dollars,” Barroway said.
See what they did there?: Existing state tax dollars. The stadium would be financed by future tax dollars paying back debt in the form of bond sales secured by… well, not much.
So to recap: we know that LeBlanc has played hardball with governments, first to get a sweetheart no-bid deal to manage a stadium the city government owns and then, when that city government finally balked, pulling out all stops to put political pressure on the state government to finance a new stadium.
But politicians south of the border are learning. In April 2017, Bill 1149 died in the Arizona legislature, reported Darrell Jackson for the Glendale Star:
The bill, which would allow for the creation of a Community Entertainment District (CEG), where all sales inside the district would be taxed by an additional 2 percent, is the groundwork for the arena, once funding is set in place, with the agreement working for whatever Valley city would ultimately be home for the venue.
[Arizona Governor Doug] Ducey fired back at Bettman after his ultimatum to legislators that the Coyotes could not remain in Glendale and they needed tax breaks for a new arena in the state.
“I don’t know if delivering an ultimatum letter is the most productive thing that can be done,” Ducey said on a local radio appearance.
Two months later, Barroway bought out his partners, and a few months later, LeBlanc and Drummond showed up in Halifax… looking for a stadium deal.
This history should give Haligonians pause, but you know the drill: instead we’ll get a steady stream of boosterism, critics will be called “naysayers,” and no financing deal will be looked at critically.
Sometimes I feel for city staff tasked with putting together reports that are politically driven. It’s an impossible task: they have to be factual, and simultaneously serve their political masters while covering their own asses. This week’s staff report on the stadium is well-written. I’m not at all faulting authors Jerry Blackwood, Kelly Denty, and Denise Schofield. But as I read through it, here and there, I can almost hear them wincing.
First of all comes the price tag of the stadium: $170 to $190 million. The report doesn’t actually say, but that figure presumably comes from MFLP. Who knows if the figure is accurate? But even if it is, it doesn’t include the cost of the new infrastructure that would be needed to service the site — a new highway exit (new interchanges are costing in the ballpark of $100 million each), new roads in the development, traffic signals (which can cost a quart of a million dollars a pop), water and sewer line extension, and even a seawall (“a significant portion of the site may be vulnerable to storm surge/sea level risks and may require unique engineering solutions to address risks,” notes the wincing report.)
All told, we’re probably talking something like a half a billion dollars for all costs related to a stadium.
But the staff report is looking at just the financing for a $170 to $190 million stadium. More from the wincing report:
In HRM’s current 10-year Capital Plan, fiscal 2026/27 includes a Stadium Project (CB000012) with a gross budget of $105M, with $70M to be funded externally.
Well, yes, except $170 to $190 million is a hell of a lot more than $105 million, and in any event, Stadium Project account CB000012 has exactly $0 in it.
And what about that “$70M to be funded externally”? When I first read that, I naively (and rather stupidly) thought that would be the amount put forward by MFLP, but no. The report doesn’t actually come out and say this, but having re-read it several times, I’m understanding that at best MFLP will only buy the land — even that isn’t clear, however. The $70 million is apparently a reference to provincial financial support of the stadium. More on that in a moment.
So how does a stadium get financed? With something called Tax Increment Financing (TIF):
Tax increment financing (TIF) is a public financing model that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and debt financing. A TIF district essentially reallocates funds from property taxes to encourage investment within the district. Any incremental tax revenues collected as a result of increases in property values or new development go into a TIF fund (stadium reserve) and can be used by the municipality for purposes within the TIF to promote development or provide capital financing.
In other words: a certain tax district will be defined that includes the stadium and possibly surrounding areas, and special rules will apply to that district.
Currently, all property taxes are placed in the city’s general fund, and are used to pay for the broad range on city services — paying cops and firefighters, filling potholes, maintaining parks, and so forth. But property taxes collected from within the special district will be dedicated entirely to paying off the debt servicing costs for the stadium construction.
Those annual debt servicing cost would range from $9 to $10 million annually, notes the report. And here comes another wince:
TIF models do have a risk factor as they related to property values that can be affected by supply, construction delays, build out time and absorption.
See: Nova Centre. The Nova Centre is not a true TIF, but it was justified in budget documents as such: the increase in tax revenues from the Nova Centre would pay for the city’s cost of financing the convention centre within it. Except that’s not what happened. Instead, assessed values for office space downtown have collapsed, and on top of that, the Nova Centre is nearly empty. As a result, the tax collected from the Nova Centre is nowhere near what was anticipated, and so the projected budget of the convention centre account has taken a $25 million hit over the next 10 years.
Moreover, Nova Centre owner Joe Ramia is appealing even the lower assessment of $200,009,300. If he wins that appeal (which seems likely), future tax receipts will be even lower, and that $25 million hit to the city budget could grow considerably larger.
Has Halifax council learned anything from the Nova Centre disaster? Apparently not, as it is considering the same TIF budget “logic” for the stadium.
But even if TIF for a stadium works as designed, it still obscures the larger budget implications for the city. As the wincing staff report explains:
HRM will need to determine how much of the development is attracting growth away from other areas of the city including HRM’s Master Plan areas, Cogswell or the Centre Plan corridors. A concern would be that the proposal simply shifts development from one area of the municipality to another and as a result, there would be no incremental tax revenues. Competition could impact the buildout and absorption of units for the Cogswell Development.
Development in this or that area of the city doesn’t operate in isolation. If you live in Clayton Park and then move over to a new apartment next to a stadium, you’re moving that part of your rent that goes to property taxes as well. Same thing if the HFX Sports Bar and Grill decides to move operations from Brunswick Street to Shannon Park.
Property taxes aren’t exactly a zero sum game — even empty apartments and retail buildings pay some small tax, and new construction will likely increase the total revenue for the city. But the opposite certainly isn’t true; that is, the notion that all taxes collected from a stadium district is “new” money that we can use to finance a stadium without affecting the existing city budget is just plain false. Creating a TIF necessarily means taking money away from other city budget priorities. It won’t be all of the $9 to $10 million spent on the stadium annually, but it’ll be most of it.
Lastly, even the TIF financing isn’t enough to pay off the stadium construction costs.
“The participation of the Province as a capital financing funding partner in this opportunity is essential,” notes the report:
The Premier has publicly stated that no current general revenue or tax incentives would be used to provide capital debt financing to a stadium, however the province would be open to funding a stadium through new sources of revenue…. To date, two possible revenue streams have been indicated, however, there may be others. A possible incremental revenue stream would be to increase the hotel marketing levy tax. A possible new revenue stream would be the development of a car rental tax.
The report doesn’t get into how much money would have to be generated by these additional taxes, but if we’re factoring in a few pennies more on the hotel bed tax and a car rental tax, the TIF financing must be razor thin.
2. Sea level rise
“Question: With signs of accelerating effects from climate change, should $200-300 million of public money be invested in a new building to last less than a century on the Halifax waterfront?” asks Jennifer Henderson:
When it comes to a new home for both the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (the so-called “Cultural Hub”), the provincial minister of Communities, Culture, and Heritage, Leo Glavine, says, “A waterfront location is still desirable.”
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Last week, Nova Scotia Business Inc. announced $3,569,500 in payroll rebates for Michelin.
“Since its opening in Nova Scotia in 1971, it has provided ongoing, well-paying jobs in three plants spread across rural Nova Scotia,” notes Stephen Kimber:
Long the largest private sector employer in the province, Michelin claimed its latest expansion announcement last week will push its total workforce here past 3,600, “the highest level in our almost 50-year history.”
So, it’s good news. Except…
Except that that good news has come at a huge cost, and not just in terms of the hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars doled out to keep Michelin from picking up its manufacturing plants and moving them elsewhere. There has also been — perhaps more significant — the incalculable cost to our provincial sovereignty and self-respect.
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4. Phillip Izzard
“Phillip Izzard has been trying to get someone to listen for 37 years,” writes El Jones, who then goes on to tell Phillip’s life story, which leads from being a discriminated-against Dockyard worker to a health crisis to an addiction to methadone. And now what?
I admire all of Jones’ work, but it’s these sort of up close and personal profiles that particularly move me.
5. Tim Houston
Tim Houston won the PC Leadership election.
No public meetings.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm, Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel) — there’s some other stuff on the agenda, but discussion of the arena proposal will dominate the day, I think.
No public meetings.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — a per diem meeting.
Architecture travel exhibition (Monday, 5:30pm, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — Jaudat Adnan, Kevin Dolphin, Bradley Farrish, Jacob Kalinowski, and Jeff Walker will talk about what they did on their summer vacation.
Falling Through the Cracks (Monday, 4:30pm, Theatre D, 2nd floor, Clinical Research Centre) — A screening of the documentary, and Ewan Affleck will talk. From the event listing:
Ewan Affleck, a digital health information systems expert, through the documentary Falling through the Cracks hopes to demonstrate that handing over control of health information to patients will serve the collective interest of all parties; the industry, the government and average Canadians.
Ancestry Tracing: Can Genetics Tell You Who You Are? (Monday, 7pm, The Nook, 2118 Gottingen St., Halifax) — Françoise Baylis will speak.
Ports Modernization: Balancing Economic Prosperity and Environmental Sustainability (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1011, Rowe Building) — panelists are Michelle Adams, Dalhousie University, School for Resource and Environmental Studies; Mary Brooks, Dalhousie University, Rowe School of Business; Jim Parsons, Memorial University, Fisheries and Marine Institute; and Tony Walker, Dalhousie University, School for Resource and Environmental Studies.
Brooks has been hired to write port propaganda — non-peer-reviewed port-promotional stuff — which is fine, I guess, but I wish they had a port skeptic on the panel.
As I wrote five years ago:
The arguments supporting the gateway concept have been repeated ad nauseam by every bureaucrat or crown corporation looking for a federal handout. They’ve been given academic cover by now-retired Dal professor Mary Brooks, who has written dozens of papers, none that I know of peer-reviewed, promoting the gateway. Here’s how Brooks put the geographic argument in 2007:
Canada’s geographic advantage stems from the fact that Shanghai is closer to Prince Rupert and Vancouver than it is to Los Angeles, and Halifax is closer to Antwerp, Belgium, than ports on the U.S. eastern seaboard. Both Vancouver and Halifax are closer to Asian ports than their west and east-coast American competitors — in most cases by a full day or more.
This reasoning is entirely ass-backwards.
Shippers don’t want to go to the closest port — they want to go to the port that’s farthest away. Shippers want to get to the port that’s closest to their ultimate destination, in order to reduce the much more expensive land-shipping (i.e., trucking) costs.
Here’s an analogy. Suppose I need to travel from my office in north end Halifax to the Beford police station, and the bus isn’t an option. I could drive from my office to a halfway point, say, Fairview. This would be, in Oldfield’s words, the “ham of the sandwich.” But then, I’d have to walk the rest of the way. Which is clearly ridiculous.
A much better plan would be to drive to as close as I can get to the police station, say, the Bedford Sobey’s parking lot, and then just walk the two blocks up to the police station.
I don’t want to travel to the ham in the sandwich. I want to travel from one slice of bread to the opposite slice of bread.
In much the same way, a merchant shipping a container from Antwerp to, say, Indianapolis, doesn’t want the ship to end up in Halifax, and then pay for a three-day truck shipment the rest of the way. He wants to get that container as close as he possibly can to Indianapolis by ship — which probably means to New York City or Norfolk, Virginia.
In any event, there’s more info here.
The Svarc genus of a fibration (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Room 319, Chase Building) — Marzieh Bayeh will speak. Her abstract:
It is a number (integer) that is assigned to a fibration. This concept has been used to define new invariants, such as topological complexity and sectional category. In this talk, we will introduce the Svarc genus and discuss some of its properties.
Bring your own Svarc genus.
#DalMedForward Town Hall: Meeting and Exceeding Expectations in Education (Tuesday, 5pm, Theatre A, Tupper Building) — David Anderson and Jennifer Hall will host “a forum for discussion of current and anticipated influencers on the Education pillar of the strategic plan, #DalMedForward.”
Healthy by Design (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library) — Celeste Alvaro and Glen Hougan will discuss “How do we design hospitals for a better health care experience?”
Single Mothers of Color, Bureaucratic Torture, and the Divinity of the Nation‑State (Tuesday, 7pm, Room 1016, Rowe Management Building) — Smadar Lavie will talk about her new book Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture, 2nd Edition. From the event listing:
The Mizrahim are Jews from North Africa and the Middle East who comprise Israel’s majority Jewish population. They suffer from systematic discrimination by Israel’s Ashkenazi Jews who drive Israeli policymaking. Lavie’s is the first English language ethnography about single mothers in the Middle East. This is one of the very few ethnographies about single mothers outside North America. The book explores Israel’s intra-Jewish racial and ethnic conflicts from a feminist perspective. It analyzes how the plight of Mizrahi single mothers relates to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, as well as its tensions with Iran and other neighboring Arab countries. Lavie uncovers the conundrum of loving and staying loyal to a state that uses its bureaucratic system to repeatedly inflict pain on its non-European majority who, despite this pain, is willing to sacrifice their lives for what they conceive of as the state’s security.
University Town Hall (Monday, 10am, in the theatre named after a bank in the building named after a grocery store) — I’ll save you the time: everything is great!
University Town Hall (Tuesday, 2pm, in the theatre named after a bank in the building named after a grocery store) — see above.
Abdo Ghié (Tuesday, 4pm, Atrium 212) — from the event listing: SMU has signed a “collaboration agreement” with Lebanese American University (ALU) in Beirut & Byblos, Lebanon. Abdo G. Ghié is the Assistant VP of Enrollment Management at LAU, and this is a “meet and greet” so students can explore studying in Lebanon.
In the harbour
05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: AIDAdiva, cruise ship with up to 2,050 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Quebec City (10-day cruise from Montreal to New York)
06:00: Maersk Patras, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
07:20: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland, Maine
10:30: Mignon, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
11:30: Ef Ava sails for sea
12:00: Maersk Patras sails for sea
14:45: AIDAdiva sails for Bar Harbor
15:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
15:30: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
15:30: Great Eastern, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John (does that mean the refinery is up and running again?)
16:00: Kitikmeot W, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City
I had even more to write about this morning but ran out of time.
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