Here’s The Halifax Wanderers Permanent Stadium Proposal
The Halifax Wanderers have officially made their pitch for a permanent stadium in Halifax.
The proposed 8,500-capacity stadium would see the grounds transition from a natural to an artificial turf with new lights, permanent grandstands, an enlargement of the field, and a forty-million dollar estimate. The city-owned grounds would also being used for outdoor concerts, community sports, and potentially encased in a bubble for year-round use.
The Wanderers – who would not own the stadium, as it sits on public land – have proposed a thirty-year lease with the club as an anchor tenant as part of their proposal.
The city has never had permanent and sizable outdoor sports and venue before, with the Halifax Wanderers hoping to make their Haligonian success story a permanent affair.
The Canadian Premier League club regularly boasts sell-out crowds at the current but temporary pop-up stadium, which was built after club president Derek Martin first appeared before the committee to pitch the venture in 2017.
By the end of this season, the temporary venue will have hosted over 75 professional soccer matches and five international rugby matches, with some 400,000 citizens and tourists taking part in the stadium festivities since the pop-up stadium was erected.
Still, the current venue does not stack up to what Martin believes Halifax should be offering its locals and tourists at the historic sports ground.
“The citizens of HRM deserve better,” says Martin, who pointed out that the lack of running water in the pop-up structure means that the 5,000+ average crowd must use portable toilets and have no built-in food amenities.
“The rented metal bleachers are not sustainable long-term and will be removed at the end of our pop-up agreement. The reality is that Halifax has a premier and appropriate indoor sports and entertainment facility in the Scotiabank Centre, and our city deserves to have an outdoor venue that can host the same types of events and become home to our region’s biggest teams.”
Martin reflects that the pop-up stadium was, as the name implies, never meant to be permanent. Having signed an original three-year deal, the pandemic saw them to extend for another three years with a one-year extension now set to end in 2024.
The Canadian Premier League side is hopeful that a permanent ground can be erected in time for the 2025 Canadian Premier league season, especially with Canada hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup one year later.
“As we look ahead to this significant event, there are tremendous opportunities to showcase Halifax on the biggest international sporting stage as a host city for one of the participating teams in the months leading up to the event,” adds the Wanderers Club President.
For that timeline to work, the club is hoping to receive HRM approval by January 2024, with groundwork beginning that November and the permanent stadium being build up the following spring ahead of the 2025 CPL season.
Still, the forty million dollar price tag is a steep one. Martin explains that the club’s estimate is divided between site preparation and resurfacing costs and the actual stadium itself, which would have a capacity of 8,500, permanent grandstands, a FIFA certified artificial pitch capable of multisport community use, and the utility groundwork that has been lacking in the temporary grounds.
The plans also include an enlargement of the land that includes paved concourse areas and an entry plaza on Bell Street. That land has historically hosted a sporting team, having been used in the 1880s by the Halifax Wanderers Amateur Athletic Club for rugby and lawn bowling.
That team failed to pay its lease fees during the Second World War, with the land use reverting back to the city ever since. The Wanderers now hope to bring a permanent professional sporting and events venue back to the land.
While losing the natural grass pitch may upset some die-hard football fans, the realities are that the pros outweigh the cons: with the city owning the ground, community access can be expanded to year-round activities – something that the east coast climate makes impossible with a natural grass pitch.
“We have collaborated with our neighbours and have developed what we feel is a vision that makes the space a vital community asset for entertainment, sports and cultural events,” says Martin. “Not only does our proposal continue to honour the historical use of the Wanderers Grounds, but it also enhances public access and use by improving the amenities and increasing the overall time that the facility would be available.”
While an opposition party has staunchly opposed the construction of a permanent stadium, it’s clear that Wanderers Ground has proven to be a big draw out on the east coast – though what ultimately comes next will be up to the council and the court of public opinion.
Interested fans can take a look at the full stadium proposal here.