The Canadian Football League is at an intriguing point in its history. Perhaps more than any other time, the dream of a tenth team seems more likely than ever. The question now is, where? Do we know the division, the East division, the question is either Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Quebec City, Quebec. The correct answer is both, but in terms of where should be the priority, that’s what we’re going to explore.
The case for Halifax
Randy Ambrosie’s tenure as CFL commissioner has been characterized by (amongst other things) a desire and determination to bring an expansion team to Halifax. Since an ownership group was founded in 2018, there has been stadium proposals, and regular-season CFL games played in New Brunswick and Halifax. There has even been the idea thrown around of having an expansion CFL team play in a temporary stadium to get the team off the ground. One thing is evidently clear, the CFL desperately wants to put an expansion team in Atlantic Canada.
The last two CFL games played in Atlantic Canada have been successful in selling tickets and generating interest, and from that 2022 Touchdown Atlantic game, over $12 million was generated in economic benefit. The CFL wants to put a team in Nova Scotia, and there are clearly economic incentives for the province and the city of Halifax.
We’ve seen with the IIHF World Juniors, HFX Wanderers and the U Sports basketball championships that Halifax is indeed a viable sports market with a lot of upside. If the CFL can get involved now, the potential upside in team support is huge!
The Atlantic Schooners first came to life as a potential expansion team in 1983, but by 1984 the team was dead because of an inability to reach a deal on a stadium. It’s been nearly forty years, and we are no further forward than we were initially – the CFL is still just chasing the Halifax dragon.
The latest stadium proposal submitted to the City of Halifax became a casualty of COIVD-19 and according to latest reports, the ownership group involved – Schooners Sports and Entertainment are stepping away from the Halifax expansion project. The Schooners have just not been able to catch a break, perhaps this team is just destined to never play a down? The CFL has other options, it doesn’t have to focus so hardly on what appears to be a failed venture. Randy Ambrosie is already associated with a cancelled season and a labour stoppage, a failed expansion bid that he has been incredibly vocal about would be yet another big blow to his reign as commissioner – he and the league need to move on.
S. 2 Ep. 21: Canada Doing What Canada Does – FC13 Podcast
The case for Quebec City
Despite not having a CFL team, there are few Canadian cities that can boast a football tradition and culture that trumps what La Vieille Capitale has. Quebec City Laval University has been running a football program since 1996, and in that time Laval Rouge et Or have won eleven Vanier Cups, sixteen conference titles and have consistently been the best-attended team in Canadian collegiate football. It’s not uncommon for games against Montreal to reach close to 20,000 fans in attendance
The biggest roadblock in the past has been that the Montreal Alouettes exclusively own the rights to the CFL in the province. Meaning that the ALS would need to be on board with a second team in the province. Quebec based Telecommunications billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau seems open to the idea of a Quebec City team, and team GM Danny Maciocia also believes that a Quebec City team can work. There has never been more forward momentum for putting a team in Quebec, now is the time for action.
The case against Quebec City
Quebec City is much more francophone than Montreal, and this combined with its small market size has seen professional sports leave the city before – with the Quebec Nordiques only lasting sixteen years as an NHL franchise. The CFL is a very anglophone institution and has struggled to get a foot hold in Quebec City. In 2015, a game between the Ottawa Redblacks and Montreal Alouettes only had 4,778 in attendance, significantly below what Laval gets for U Sports games.
Laval is also a huge stumbling block. The college football team isn’t keen on sharing a stadium and no longer having a monopoly on football in the city. Furthermore, significant renovation would be needed for PEPS stadium RFK to host CFL games. The only other option would be to build a new stadium, and it’s unknown at this point how feasible that is
Both cities have similar challenges, with a stadium being the biggest obstacle in both cases. Not much can be done about PEPS as it stands unless Laval agree to big renovations and sharing a stadium. Meanwhile in Halifax, there have been more positive talks about using a college stadium (likely, Saint Mary’s Huskies Stadium) as a temporary stadium to get a team up and running.
The CFL has invested a lot of time into Atlantic Canada, it seems unlikely that they’ll turn back now – Randy Ambrosie seems desperate to get at least one expansion team. Halifax is the more likely candidate at this point, but once we get that elusive tenth team, there’s no reason why we can immediately start targeting Quebec City as the eleventh team. Because after all, is it really the CFL if the schedule isn’t unbalanced?
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