Moncton mayor Dawn Arnold said her city is all-in on an initiative to secure a Canadian Football League franchise in Atlantic Canada.
She huddled with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and Maritime Football Ltd. lead investor Anthony LeBlanc for an hour on Wednesday and came away full of hope for Moncton’s participation in the process that proponents hope will deliver a 10th CFL team to Halifax in the near future.
“I think their takeaway was that Moncton is entering a whole new era as far as a city, its capabilities and what is possible here,” Arnold said. “They loved our stadium. They were tossing around ideas and possibilities — if we were possibly to have the league here for a couple of years before Halifax is ready, possibly have some pre-season games, possibly have a training (camp) here. Everything is on the table.”
Seating at Moncton Stadium can be expanded to almost 21,000 and the venue has hosted three CFL regular-season games. Two were sellouts, the third attracted just 15,123 to watch Hamilton and Montreal.
“We need to have something out here,” Arnold said. “Whatever it is and however it turns out it will be a full Atlantic Canadian initiative. So that’s where we’re at. We’ll all have to buy in in some way, wherever it ultimately ends up. We could certainly do it here. I think everything is on the table but I think Halifax has certainly been working at this a lot longer than we have,” said Arnold
Maritime Football Ltd. has been working to secure a stadium site in Halifax, and an economic impact analysis of a team in that city has begun.
Ambrosie and LeBlanc toured both Moncton Stadium and a $104-million downtown sports and entertainment centre that opens officially on Sept. 8 and will be home to the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“They were incredibly impressed with that,” said Arnold. “It gives them a vision of what is possible here in our city.”
Ambrosie said he believes an Atlantic franchise has to consider building a football district.
“You build a stadium and you build a development around the stadium because people are no longer just going into games,” Ambrosie said recently.
“The calculus of their use of their time is not a transport me to a game and then home from a game. It’s take me for lunch and maybe some shopping and then I’ll go to a game and then after I’ll go for a drink or dessert and then I’ll go home.”
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