A Halifax Ballpark

Ah, the great never-ending Halifax Stadium debate.  Here is my two cents on what should be done.  Sadly, if the hypothetical CFL stadium here in Halifax hasn’t been build yet, it probably never will be.  Unless there is proof that there is a demand for such a building in HRM.  I believe the best way to prove there is demand for a large-scale stadium in Halifax is to start small and then work our way up.

Here is some trivia.  Name the biggest metropolitan area in Canada or the United States that has NEVER hosted a professional baseball team of any sort (Majors, minors, independent leagues).  The answer is Halifax (144th largest metro in Canada/USA (excluding Puerto Rico) based on 2010 US census & 2011 Canadian census) with a population of 390,096 as of 2011.  This should be enough to support a pro ball club, especially when all other sporting options are during the fall to spring months (Mooseheads, Rainmen and university sports).

To start, Halifax would need a park somewhere in the 3000-5000 capacity range to have a viable franchise in the minors (as mentioned in other posts, I am thinking the independent CanAm League is ideal).  I am favoring something closer to 5000, as it is still and intimate, but large enough to meet the expected demand of opening day, holidays, rivalry games, playoffs, etc.  In an ideal world, such a park would be built with expansion in mind in case it was needed; but not completely necessary.

Of course, location is another huge hurdle (as if funding wasn’t).  In a utopian world, a waterfront ballpark is the best idea.  Due to a lack of land in the waterfront/downtown area, this is not likely to occur.  The current ballpark on the Mainland North Common could be upgraded to professional standards.  The location off the highway makes it easy to get to for people coming to games from out-of-town (Truro area, the Valley, South Shore, etc) but the traffic buildup in Clayton Park and lack of parking in the area for a 3000-5000 seat stadium eliminates this as a long-term solution.  I feel the best place for such a stadium is a near downtown location.  This way all downtown restaurants, bars and pubs still get their business and the land to build such a park is not at such a premium.  The dream location would be the Cogswell Interchange, as the park could be part of the Harbourwalk, which could attract tourists to games.  But, with all the political wrangling of that location, it will always be just that, a dream location for a stadium/ballpark/anything else.  More realistically, Wanderers Grounds could hold such a facility and is in a semi-downtown location, and it used to host baseball (in fact, Babe Ruth once put on the home run exhibition there that drew 5000 fans).  But, it would displace the soccer, rugby, gaelic sports, etc that currently take place there, so a new facility would have to go up somewhere for these activities.

The best location to place a 5000 seat ballpark in Halifax is actually on the Commons; right on the location of the Canada Games softball diamond.  I know, using the Commons for private enterprise is a very controversial topic and handing over park of it for permanent private use is never going to happen, but if this were to ever actually occur, it is the best location.  It is close to downtown, so all the businesses there would benefit from it, the restaurants in the Quinpool District would also benefit.  The Commons is centrally located, so transit is a non-issue and parking isn’t a huge hassle with the pay lots a few blocks away and free street parking in various locations.  Like, the Wanderers Grounds it would displace some activity.  Namely, some tennis courts would have to be re-orientated to make room for left field and the Pavilion music club may be relocated.  The Pavilion could be converted for ballpark use.  The downstairs could be used for clubhouses, while the upstairs could be used for washrooms, concessions, souvenir stands and other fan amenities.  The roof could even be converted into a press box.  I feel this location would be best because of its proximity to downtown, the south end, the west end and the MacDonald Bridge as it would attract people from around HRM and the surrounding areas.

If Halifax can draw good crowds to baseball games in the summer months, it could convince the powers that be that the city is ready for a bigger things and that CFL stadium/team could come this way after all.  If not, then a baseball team would provide quality sports in a family friendly environment during the summer months.

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