Over a century ago, the Wanderers Grounds was the beating heart of the Halifax peninsula. From our city’s earliest days, our community has gathered together on this hallowed ground, perfectly positioned between the iconic Citadel Hill and the beautiful Public Gardens.
From Rugby to Soccer to Lawn Bowling to Track and Field to Boxing to Baseball, the Grounds gave our community a place to gather and celebrate our heroes, whether it was the local boys proudly representing their family and friends as members of the Wanderers Amateur Athletic Club or it was welcoming the world’s biggest baseball star at the time, the legendary Babe Ruth.
For the last 50 years however the grounds have quietly sat, allowing the odd school or pickup game but patiently waiting for the day it could once again roar to life. Well, that day came on May 4th, 2019 when a sold out crowd filed into the Wanderers Grounds from all corners of the downtown to cheer on their Halifax Wanderers Football Club. The team went on to win the inaugural home match with a 2-1 victory. While only 6,244 fans were able to squeeze into the grounds that fateful day, over 20,000 seem to be able to recount their excitement at being part of Halifax history and that number is surely to grow as the years continue to pass.
That opening game was a special moment for Club Founder & President Derek Martin as it was the culmination of a vision born years before of what the grounds should be for the city.
“The Wanderers Grounds was Halifax’s greatest forgotten asset and I could never understand why we were not embracing its potential to unite a growing city while celebrating our history” said Derek. “A sports and entertainment experience is about much, much more than just the game. It’s about the memorable meal downtown before or after. It’s about the joyful walk to the grounds through the city streets. It’s about the cold beer with friends old and new while debating the coaches decisions. It’s about belonging to a community that will be forever bonded through a shared experience. It is what we feel that is so much more valuable than what we see.”
No matter the team you cheer for, no matter the sport, it’s hard to ignore the power sport has to take you away from the day to day stresses that affect all of us, especially after a 2020 that brought so much turmoil and unrest due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sport has always been an avenue of escape and we’re fortunate to be involved in it,” says HFX Wanderers Head Coach Stephen Hart. “We’re lucky that there are a lot of people that depend on the sport to give them that moment away – go somewhere with friends, have a meal and some drinks. Escape is important in society and I hope the Wanderers continue to provide that in Halifax for years to come.”
With only one CPL season under its belt, the Wanderers Grounds have already created special memories for many members of the community. One individual in particular, Marc Therrien, a Season Seat Member since the Wanderers’ inaugural year, was amazed to see how many people were behind the local soccer team.
“Having revived the Wanderers Grounds has been a huge bonus for the city of Halifax and the communities around the city. It has brought people together from all walks of life to support one team,” explains Marc, more commonly known as Blue Face. “It showed people’s pride for the city – it has allowed intermingling between players, youth, staff and fans, a unique opportunity which has allowed for the development of football as a sport and culture here in Halifax, but also on a broader scale the country with the development of the CPL.”
In recent years, the Wanderers Grounds hosted not only Wanderers games, but also facilitated University level matches, rugby matches, yoga and more. In 2020, fans gathered on the field, respecting safety and health guidelines, to watch the Wanderers play while at the Island Games.
“I’ve had so many memories at the Wanderers Grounds but the final match from the Island Games stands out. The support the fans showed during the pandemic and the pride we have for the team even during a defeat is unparalleled in the league. We support our boys in blue no matter what and we always have their back. That’s what makes us stand apart from the other supporters around the league.”
A lot of the credit of course goes to the ones in charge of maintaining the field and ensuring the pitch itself is world class. Alana Tapper, Superintendent at Parks West is an important piece of the puzzle behind the scenes. After attending a Wanderers Grounds event herself, Alana was amazed by the atmosphere Haligonians could create.
“You’re not going to find a sports venue like this. You really have to go down on the field and experience the people, the atmosphere – it’s intense, it’s exciting! It’s just really, really cool.”
As 2021 continues to unfold the Wanderers are working diligently with the office of public health to develop a plan for the safe return of fans to the Wanderers Grounds in 2021. We are confident that our plan puts the safety of our loyal fans first and foremost, while also giving them back the opportunity to experience their newfound joy of cheering on their Wanderers…together.