Stadium proposal Q and A with Wanderers President and Founder Derek Martin

Why should Halifax invest in a permanent stadium at the Wanderers Grounds? 

DM: Halifax has needed an outdoor sports & entertainment venue for decades, but the missing piece has always been a long-term tenant. The flaw in every stadium discussion before now was the request to believe that “If you build it, they will come,” and the size required forced proponents to look outside of the urban core. So when I proposed the pop-up stadium six years ago, I wanted to flip the script and not ask for blind faith but instead prove that the Wanderers Grounds and professional soccer was the right sport at the right time in the right location to be successful for the long term. We have proven that, even with a pandemic after our first season, but the reality, however, is that the Wanderers Grounds is on common land and, as such, is not permitted, nor should it be, to be leased to a private entity and as such it should be a municipal facility serving the needs of the citizens that call HRM home. This needs to be a community facility that is used by everyone but enabled through the presence of the Wanderers.

Why do the Wanderers believe this is the only suitable location? 

DM: Since 1882, the Wanderers Grounds has been this community’s outdoor sports & entertainment venue, and only through neglect and lack of a professional tenant did it fall into the state of disrepair we found it in 2016. It was identified then and continues to be now, almost 150 years later, the absolute best location for an outdoor spectator venue in our city because spectator events require more than just a patch of grass and some stands; they require an intricate web of transportation and hospitality services that already exist in and around the Wanderers Grounds. At the Wanderers Grounds, we are able to integrate a stadium INTO the community vs. trying to build a community around a stadium.  

Why can’t the Wanderers keep playing out of the pop-up stadium?

DM: To put it bluntly, the citizens of HRM deserve better. We do not have running water, which means portable toilets and food trucks, since we can’t have proper washrooms or food facilities. We do not have proper lighting, which is a challenge for the proper broadcast quality of professional or international events and presents a safety risk for spectators. The rented metal bleachers are not sustainable long-term and will be removed at the end of our pop-up agreement. The reality is that Halifax has a premier and appropriate indoor sports & entertainment facility in the Scotiabank Centre, and our city deserves to have an outdoor venue that can host the same types of events and become home to our region’s biggest teams.

Why does this need to be ready for 2025?

DM: By definition, our “Pop-Up” stadium was never intended to be permanent. The original proposal was for a 3-year term, which would have ended in 2020. However, the pandemic caused all of us to take a pause and extend the agreement by another 3-year term, plus a 1-year extension which ends in 2024. It is no longer an appropriate solution for a professional organization anyway, and we shouldn’t feel it is a satisfactory showpiece befitting a city like Halifax. Soccer in Canada is also at a tipping point as we prepare to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup with the USA and Mexico in 2026. As we look ahead to this significant event, there are tremendous opportunities to showcase Halifax on the biggest international sporting stage as a host city for one of the participating teams in the months leading up to the event.

How did you determine an estimate of $40M for the project?

DM: The project estimate is divided equally between the work needed to prepare the site and the cost of the stadium itself. Our biggest challenge at the site currently is the lack of basic utilities that would allow for a better experience for the citizens and visitors to our city. Paved concourse areas, water and electrical supply, appropriate lighting, resurfacing and enlargement of the field are estimated to cost $20M, while the stadium components themselves are estimated at $20M. The Halifax Wanderers are committed to being the anchor tenant at the Wanderers Grounds through a fair agreement that will contribute to the cost of construction over the lease period. The Wanderers are proposing a 30-year lease that illustrates our long-term commitment.

Why are the Wanderers proposing an artificial pitch? 

DM: The community does get access to the current facility and can contact HRM to book it whenever they wish. The reality is we live in Canada, and maintaining a natural grass field at a professional level is incredibly difficult despite the tremendous efforts of the HRM grounds staff. This limits the number of hours that the field can be used as well as restricts the sports that can be played there so the only solution that would allow for increased community usage is to replace the grass with FIFA-certified artificial turf that then allows the venue to become a 365 day a year facility truly accessible to all. 

How does this proposal impact the Wanderers Block?

DM:  We have collaborated with our neighbours and have developed what we feel is a vision that makes the space a vital community asset for entertainment, sports and cultural events. Not only does our proposal continue to honour the historical use of the Wanderers Grounds, but it also enhances public access and use by improving the amenities and increasing the overall time that the facility would be available. We would be the anchor tenant, and community groups and sports teams would be able to book the facility through the city just as they do for other municipal venues.