MONCTON – Councillors voted 7-3 to move ahead on a deal with the Atlantic Schooners Sports and Entertainment, the organization that aims to bring a 10th CFL franchise team to Atlantic Canada, to use the city’s stadium for a game on August 25.
The deal will allow the Toronto Argonauts and the Montreal Alouettes to play a regular-season game at the Stade Croix Bleue Medavie Stadium.
The city’s venues department has been in contract negotiations with the promoter to have the game played in Moncton. The council’s approval will enable the mayor and city clerk to sign all necessary documents for the deal.
Councillors Paul Pellerin and Brian Hicks said they had initially supported the game based on information from staff that the city wouldn’t be on the hook financially for the game. But although they still support the game, they changed their views on the deal.
“When this first got to council, we were told specifically that there will be no cost involved by the municipality,” Pellerin said.
“I learned today that there’s a financial risk to the city of Moncton and I can’t support it because of that,” Hicks said.
Speaking to reporters after the council meeting, staff told reporters that the city remained consistent in not offering any financial incentive to attract the promoter. They also said most of the out-of-pocket costs, such as those related to security, are being handled by the promoter. But, they identified one item that would cost the city out-of-pocket as a financial risk.
“To host a football game, because there’s a track around the field, we have to install and remove the football end zone. That is equipment that we own. However, we would engage with a third-party and pay out-of-pocket to have that installed,” said Catherine Dallaire, the general manager for recreation, culture and events. “As part of the contract, there will be some or all of that covered by the promoter, but I can’t get into details as to how much.”
The end zone turf installation is something the city has to do each time a football game is played on that field. Dallaire was able to share that the total cost of that installation is approximately $55,000.
“We have identified that to council as a potential risk. There’s a downside risk that we could be paying a portion of the installation and removal of the endzone turf.”
It’s unlikely that the city will have to pay for all of it, she said, because, depending on ticket sales, Atlantic Schooners will cover some or all of it.
“And we know tickets have been sold,” she said.
Reporters weren’t able to see a copy of the contract itself due to its “competitive nature,” said Shane Porter, manager of venues.
The Atlantic Schooners, formerly Maritime Football, is looking to set up an Atlantic Canadian CFL team, likely in Halifax, with plans to build a new stadium there. Moncton had been in the picture too, as a possible location for the team to play temporarily until the Halifax stadium is ready.
The city has the past experience of hosting CFL games for more than 20,000 fans and its stadium has a capacity of almost 21,000 seats.
“Future franchise, future games, all those things are things that we contemplate. We’re open for business and we want to have business in our facilities and in our city,” Porter said.
But Dallaire noted that every agreement is different. This deal is a “one-time rental agreement with the promoter,” she said, adding that it doesn’t pre-determine what future arrangements would be.
The city has owned the additional turf and end zone equipment since 2010, when a CFL game was played there.