The stadium is dead. Long live the dream. But let’s keep it a dream instead of the reality turning into a taxpayers’ nightmare.
A brief history is in order. Peter Kelly, our in-search-of-a-legacy-to-match-his-longevity mayor, has long been eager to have the city to erect an expensive new stadium, most recently—and urgently—in the faint hope we might somehow complete it in time to host a few FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer matches in 2015.
Keep in mind Kelly previously tried to saddle us with that costly Commonwealth Games white elephant. And still wants us to invest in his convention centre fantasy.
After feasibility studies and consultations, not to forget a pretty-please, deadline extension request for our FIFA bid, council asked staff in December to report on what it would take to build a stadium in time for the World Cup events. Including, of course, identifying who else might be willing to share in its $60 million construction cost.
According to the report, staff consulted widely with their provincial counterparts, prepared detailed information packages for all MLAs, met with both opposition leaders and even sat down face to face twice with Premier Darrel Dexter.
In the end, the province decided the city hadn’t presented “a business case… to support a provincial investment.”
The city enlisted Nova Scotia’s federal minister and stadium booster Peter MacKay. But even MacKay’s cabinet clout wasn’t enough to convince his ministerial colleagues to pour federal cash into the project.
Which left the private sector. Last month, the city asked for “expressions of interest” from private developers. Seven made submissions. Only three offered potential “partnership opportunities,” staff reported, and none included “any cash value.”
Logically, staff is now recommending council just say no to building a stadium at this time.
Kelly, who told Metro’s Jennifer Taplin he’s “an eternal optimist,” was disappointed but still hopeful the project could go ahead in “years, not decades.”
The stadium, it’s worth noting, will never pay for itself and will be a continuing operating drain on city taxpayers, regardless of who shares in its capital costs.
So I hope he’s wrong.