Councillor urges schools to help fund stadium

Wickwire Field, Dalhousie's main outdoor athletic facility, recently got an upgrade. (Photo: Laura Conrad)

Wickwire Field, Dalhousie's main outdoor athletic facility, recently got an upgrade. (Photo: Laura Conrad)

Universities hoping to use Halifax's proposed new stadium are being asked to help foot the bill.

Coun. Tim Outhit of Bedford, said Saint Mary's University and Dalhousie University should take an interest in the project because they'll be able to use the stadium once it's built.

"Saint Mary's has an old stadium, and it's in pretty rough shape," he said. "Dalhousie is starting to get back into having a football team, and I'm a big believer in collaboration."

Halifax needs a new stadium in order to be among the Canadian cities eligible to host the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015.

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Halifax is the only Canadian city vying to host the soccer tournament that doesn't already have a stadium. If Canada beats Zimbabwe for hosting rights, each host city will need an outdoor stadium with at least 20,000 seats.

Halifax Regional Council voted Tuesday in favour of proceeding with the first steps of building the stadium.

Finding funds

Councillors are still unsure of where the funding will come from and where the stadium will be built.

"My hope is that all the teams the universities have will share this field, and thus share in contributing to the costs," said Outhit.

Councillors haven't approached universities with a proposal yet. Steve Proctor, communications manager for Saint Mary's, said the school is interested in getting involved in the discussion process.

"We're interested in hearing what consultants say," said Proctor.

Saint Mary's athletes currently use Huskies Stadium, which Proctor said is in need of an upgrade. The stadium, built in 1970, has 4,000 seats, but can be expanded to accomodate 9,000.

Dalhousie might be interested in getting involved. Athletic director John MacDonald said the Halifax stadium would be "a great addition to the infrastructure in Nova Scotia."

Need for a stadium

But Ken Burt, vice-president of finance and administration at Dalhousie, said the university has no need for a stadium.

"Wickwire Field was just upgraded," he said, "and that meets our needs right now."

Burt said he's not sure it makes sense for the school or the students.

"(A lot of) our funding comes from students' tuition," said Burt. "Passing these costs off to students is not the right thing to do. Saint Mary's needs (a stadium) because they can't afford to fix the one they have, but we don't need one in the same way. Until I see a formal proposal, I'm sitting on the fence about this."

Universities are currently working out their own funding issues, as the NDP government announced a four-per-cent cut to post-secondary funding last week.

Council has ordered a $100,000 feasibility study and is planning to gauge public support for the stadium.

The decision on whether or not Canada will host the FIFA competition will be made in March.


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