Tag Archives: Wanderers Grounds

HRM Adopts Piecemeal Halifax Common Master Plan – No Legal Protection

The Halifax Common Master Plan Review and Implementation Plan was adopted by HRM Council on January 23, 2024. In February 2022 HRM Council directed staff to undertake further public consultation and review as the masterplan process begun in 2017. The public had not seen the plan since pre Covid and had little awareness of it. HRM staff chose to not host any public information or consultation sessions but sought feed back via a Shape Your City on-line survey for 9 months.
The presentation to HRM Council by HRM staff Carol Kodiak Roberts begins at 4:37. Council comments begin with Waye Mason at 4:48. Most of the discussion is around the stadium. HRM Staff are awkward in their answers. Councillor Mancini is excited. Councillor Patty Cuttell gives the best insight to “All winners no losers,” (5:06) Continue reading

FHC Writes to Ms. Maggie MacDonald, HRM Executive Director Parks & Recreation

FHC sent a letter to HRM’s Executive Director of Parks & Recreation Ms Maggie MacDonald to with information for her use in writing a staff report for the HRM Standing Committee on Community Planning and Economic Development about the Wanderers Grounds, particularly in the context of the proposal Mr. Derek Martin made for a long-term lease of a publicly funded stadium.

As the matter of the public funding stadiums is as yet untested in Halifax we recommend the Journal of Economic Surveys’ February 2022 article, The Impact of Professional Sports Franchises and Venues on Local Economies: A Comprehensive Survey. This recent analysis of 130 studies on the economic impact of publicly financed sports venue…

“…confirms the decades-old consensus of very limited economic impacts of professional sports teams and stadiums. Even with added non-pecuniary social benefits from quality-of-life externalities and civic pride, welfare improvements from hosting teams tend to fall well short of covering public outlays. Thus, the large subsidies commonly devoted to constructing professional sports venues are not justified as worthwhile public investments.”
(https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4022547)

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Todd Veinotte & FHC’s Howard Epstein re HRM’s Proposed $40m Stadium Build

Listen to Todd Veinotte’s interview with Howard Epstein about SEA/Derek Martin’s pitch for HRM to spend $40 million on a permanent stadium for his private use and profit for thirty years. 

Watch Derek Martin/SEA pitch to HRM Community Planning and Economic Development standing committee along with presentations by Howard Epstein starts at 13:03, David Bentley and Vince Calderhead here:

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players prior ot HRM’s deal for a ‘temporary pop-up stadium’ – HRM’s 2017 staff report stated that if it was successful was to go elsewhere, no park space would be lost.

FHC to HRM Community Planning & Economic Develoment Standing Committee

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players like this QEHS football team (2015) before HRM paid hundreds of thousands for field upgrades, lights and on-going utility/maintenance for a professional private for-profit soccer team takeover.

Dear HRM CPED Committee Members:
Re- Wanderers Grounds – FHC Comments
FHC’s FOIPOP information received Sept 11and attached below shows that the Wanderers Grounds was used almost exclusively by Derek Martin/SEA activities with virtually nothing for amateur players. This is similar to two previous FOIPOPs. Martin/SEA private-for-profit stadium is consistently shutting out amateur players year after year.
ARG-23.24-00118 – Response Letter 00118 – Responsive Record (In Full)

HRM’s 2017 staff report wrote: Continue reading

Todd Veinotte- Interview re Ron Pink’s letter to HRM on Privatization of Wanderers Grounds

In 2018 just before the start of public consultation for the Halifax Common Master Plan HRM signed a contract with a private, professional, for-profit soccer club for a temporary “pop-up” stadium on the Wanderers Grounds.  According to the 2017 HRM staff report, prior to this agreement amateur players of all ages and gender fully used the field for football, touch football, rugby, lacrosse, frisbee and soccer— an estimated 325 hours. (Even more had the field been maintained.) The report also states that if the club was successful they would have to move elsewhere-no park space would be lost. Public tax dollars paid for initial ~$1million dollars in field improvements, and since then for on-going maintenance and utilities. There has been little to no public access. And no public consultation. With thousands more residents moving to the Peninsula we need public open green space more than ever.

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players like this QEHS football team (2015) before HRM paid hundreds of thousands for field upgrades, lights, scoreboard and on-going utility/maintenance for a professional private for-profit soccer team takeover of the public-land.

Wanderers Grounds: Ron Pink Letter to HRM Mayor Savage

FHC recently retained Halifax lawyer Ron Pink with respect to concerns about the Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) use of the Wanderers Grounds. HRM is operating in violation of the HRM Charter, the 1994 Halifax Common Plan and the Plan’s intent to maintain public access to all Common land. The letter, FHC 2023 07 10 Letter to Mayor Savage from Ronald Pink is intended to give HRM an opportunity to cease and desist all acts on non-compliance.

FHC has many posts, letters and interviews about our concerns for the Wanderers Grounds here: https://halifaxcommon.ca/?s=wanderers+grounds

Please consider becoming a FHC member: https://halifaxcommon.ca/about/membership/

Or donate by e-transfer to banking (at) halifaxcommon.ca

FHC & Todd Veinotte-Councillor Misinformed on Wanderers

Reminder: Its time for our Mayor and Council to protect the Halifax Common, not to let more of it slip out of public use and control. The temporary “pop-up” stadium on the Wanderers Grounds is turning into yet another example of privatization of the public’s Common. Before the private, for-profit Wanderers Club took over the space amateur players of all ages and gender fully used the field for football, touch football, rugby, lacrosse, frisbee and soccer. Now the field improvements, maintenance and utilities are still paid for by public tax dollars but there is little to no public benefit or access. Even if Sports Atlantic doesn’t get the $20 million its been asking for they’ve been closing off availability to land worth millions. With thousands more residents moving to the Peninsula we need public open green space more than ever. Here’s an July 2022 interview to fill in some of the information missing from the discussion!

The Wanderers Grounds was fully used by amateur players like this QEHS football team (2015) before HRM paid hundreds of thousands for field upgrades, lights, scoreboard and on-going utility/maintenance for a professional private for-profit soccer team takeover of the public-land.

Send Your Comments to Help Make the Halifax Common Plan Better!

HRM is continuing its ‘public consultation’ on the Halifax Common draft plan via an on-line survey or comments until February 28, 2023.  Thanks to Mayor Savage  and HRM Council supporting HRM’s Community Economic Development standing

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

committee’s excellent recommendation in January 2022 to bring it back to the public for feedback. (view video of committee meeting

This plan is critical to the future of the Halifax Common. That’s why we want HRM staff to do more than an online survey or emailed comments. That’s no substitute for public presentations and engagement. We are also very concerned that HRM has not consulted with the public about the Wanderers Block and that it is engaging in side deals.

Below are draft notes you can use to help you to write more detailed comments to HRM. Please email commonplan@halifax.ca to ask for actual public presentation(s) of the revised document followed with opportunities for public feedback. And to also ask that there be public consultation on the Wanderers Block.
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Halifax Common Master Plan, Wanderers Block & Public Garden Greenhouses Needs Full Public Consultation

FHC want the Friends of Public Gardens’ proposal for new greenhouses on the Wanderers Block to be included as part of the on-going public consultation for the Common Master Plan.

Plans for a Victorian greenhouse proposed by the Public Gardens Foundation on the Wanderers Grounds. – Public Gardens Foundation https://www.saltwire.com/halifax/news/8-million-year-round-greenhouse-proposed-for-wanderers-grounds-100796396/#.Y3agxJ3VqCM.twitter

While supportive of the concept FHC worries that so far HRM staff and consultants refuse to include the Wanderers Block during the any phase of the public consultation although asked to. The on-going lack of real and transparent public consultation has led to a loss of open space and failure to recapture or add to that space.

HRM’s secret dealings with Derek Martin’s Sports Atlantic have privatized the use of the Wanderers Playing Field. Martin is now looking to turn his for profit trial ‘temporary pop up stadium’ into a 10,000 seat permanent venue. “Because there is a history of projects proceeding on the Halifax Common on an ad hoc basis, there is a significant lack of cohesion within the Common – it is a collection of parts,” writes Howard Epstein, FHC Director.

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News 95.7 Todd Veinotte re Wanderers Grounds Privatization

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte and FHC director Peggy Cameron. FHC director talk about why the Wanderers Grounds must remain public. It’s been used to full capacity by amateur players for many sports- all ages, any gender. COVID showed us there are more and more demands on the little remaining public space on the Halifax Common. There isn’t any room to share  any field with a private developer. HRM can work to manage the developers’ need for a permanent 10,000 seat stadium and for $20 million by finding a better location.

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a private developer for his profit for $2400/game.

FHC Letter to Mayor: Private Permanent Stadium on Public Land is Foul Play

FHC call on you to confirm to developer Derek Martin that his request to make his private “temporary” pop-up stadium on the public Wanderers Grounds permanent and for $20 million of public money are both not going to happen. Mr. Martin needs to purchase his own venue with his own money, not continue to make a profit by privatizing the public field. No level of government should be considering giving him public money for his private stadium. Here’s why:

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (1) until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a developer for his private profit @ $2400/game.

Amateur Players: A 2017 HRM staff report states that the Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (football, lacrosse, rugby, touch football, ultimate frisbee and soccer) averaging 325 hours/year and near its limit. [1] These players book the field and pay HRM for its use. Any limitation in the amateur player use was simply due to the field not being well maintained. The Wanderers Grounds is one of the few remaining amateur playing fields on the Halifax Common. HRM intends to add 35,000 residents to the Centre Plan area. Less than 20% of the Halifax Common is public space. It is not appropriate to privatize the Wanderers Grounds for a for-profit private business deal.

Private Use for Private Profit: HRM Mayor & Council contracted the Wanderers Grounds to the developer for his private profit initially for $1200 and then for $2400/game, without any public consultation. This contract has never factored in the value of the land itself. As an example, around the same time as the privatization began a similar city-owned central property, the former St Pat’s High School sold for ~$32 million.

Better Options: FHC wrote to you when the developer put forward his business plans suggesting HRM use a better process to determine both the location and the developer. For example, an RFP with specific criteria to be evaluated. https://www.halifaxcommon.ca/tag/wanderers-grounds/page/2/

FHC also met with the developer Derek Martin in 2016 to suggest better options than privatizing the Wanderers Grounds including: partnering with the Universities to improve their sports field venues; finding central locations with available land: ie Burnside, Dartmouth Crossing, Exhibition Park or the Stanfield Airport.

Misleading the Public: Mr. Martin stated at the meeting with FHC that he intended to take over the Grounds as a permanent location. He named his professional team the Wanderers Club. The pretext of a “pop-up” stadium to be removed seasonally fell apart after one season. HRM revised the contract taking out this requirement. Martin’s recent public claims that his proposed use is consistent with historic uses of the property is simply not accurate This is not just from the professional/amateur point of view but also from an exclusive use point of view. Mr. Martin’s denial that his use has been exclusive are also not accurate. Two FOIPOP’s done by FHC show that Sports Atlantic has almost entirely excluded amateur players other than a very few sponsored events. [5]

HRM Public Consultation: The 2017 HRM staff report confirmed HRM’s commitment to include questions on the eventual desired use of the Wanderers Grounds as part of the Halifax Common Master Plan public consultation [2]. Just ahead of any public consultation HRM permitted the temporary pop-up stadium by contract. That was just as HRM closed the field in 2017 for improvements spending ~$1 million of public money. During the Master Plan public consultation both HRM staff and facilitators at the public consultation refused requests to include the field as part of the consultation. [3] All of the decisions regarding the Wanderers Grounds lease arrangements with Martin have taken place without public consultation and outside of the Halifax Common Master Plan process.

HRM Staff Report-Larger Permanent Stadium Would be Located Elsewhere: The 2017 HRM staff report also noted that hosting a professional soccer team at the Wanderers Grounds is not consistent with the more general use as the field must be maintained to a higher standard and overuse can impact the field.[4] HRM’s 2017 staff report stated that a “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds will also help indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.” [6].

Poor Location: The inappropriateness of the location is already notable. There is negative impact from noise and traffic in a densely populated area next to hospitals, the Public Gardens and the Halifax Lancers. The Lancer horses have to have ear plugs during games. The organization needs more space. Where is HRM’s consideration for their needs? They are strictly non-profit and do tremendous public service with their many programmes, especially for other-abled. There is also the negative visual impact of an oversized structure with a lot of clutter and 60 portapotties that is already significant, from all views. 10,000 spectators would only add to the harm.

Public Health: During COVID, it was again confirmed that public open space is critical for mental and physical health. Paying to watch professional soccer at the expense of shutting out amateur players is not sensible, practical or affordable. Asking for $20 million of public money shows how out of touch the developer is with what our society needs at a time where almost 600 citizens are homeless.

On-going Halifax Common Master Plan Public Consultation: In a Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff was instructed to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”

HRM has enabled the Wanderers Club to grow a huge fan base, garner corporate sponsorships and use connections and PR to cultivate the notion that the permanent location of the Wanderers Club on the Wanderers Grounds is the next logical step. Evidently there is the same presumption for $20 million public money. At the same time all amateur players have been locked out of play since 2016 and no longer have a cohesive voice. It would be inappropriate for the on- going public consultation to engage on the issue of the permanent stadium.

What HRM should do is acknowledge the importance of on-going public access to public space on the Halifax Common and its critical role in public health. Please remember HRM’s initial commitment was for a temporary removeable stadium. As per the HRM staff report the “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds was to indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.

According to the 1994 Halifax Common Master Plan the city committed to plan for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. To date almost all aspirational plans laid out for the Halifax Common by HRM have been ignored, contravened, dropped or still just aspirational.

Less than 20% of the Halifax Common remains as public open space. We ask that there is a firm end to this misappropriation of a public venue. We encourage HRM to work with the developer to find a suitable location. We are not opposed to a professional soccer league but we are opposed to the process that has led us to this place and we are opposed to the continued use of public land for private profit.

Regards, FHC Directors

Peggy Cameron, Howard Epstein, Judith Fingard, David Garrett, Peggy Smith, William Breckenridge, Lawrence McEachern, Beverly Miller, Alan Ruffman,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  1. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

  2. Ibid, p. 9

  3. FHC raised this at the HRM public consultation facilitated by Co-Lab and was told this was not part of the consultation.

  4. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

  5. FHC conducted two FOIPOPs asking for a record of games and events.

  6. p. 6, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

 

Halifax Common Master Plan Approval Delayed by HRM Standing Committee

HRM’s Community and Economic Development Standing Committee met on Wednesday, Dec 8, and agreed to delay approving the Halifax Common Master Plan just released on Friday, December 3, 2021. FHC’s Howard Epstein and Alan Ruffman were among several speakers and concerned groups including the Halifax Lancers These speakers asked that the draft Plan not go forward to HRM Council until an appropriate review of the  lengthy (496 pp) document could take place. Thank you to the many who wrote to ask for the delay.

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres " to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever." This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 240 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

Howard Epstein, presented on behalf of FHC as follows:

Submission to HRM Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee, Re: Halifax Common Master Plan

Proposal—Friends of Halifax Common asks that the Committee refer the draft Master Plan back to HRM staff to conduct further public consultations and receive comments, over a period of at least two months. There are three main reasons for this: Continue reading

Time to care for Canada’s oldest, besieged Common – Chronicle Herald Op Ed

We Need More Green Space Not Less- 95.7 Sheldon MacLeod

We need nature. Whether its a plant or a park, the evidence that public open space has important physical and mental health benefits is growing.  But even-tho the Centre Plan wants 30,000+ new residents within HRM’s urban core we are shrinking the Common. On April 24, one day before a public consultation for the Halifax Common, Mayor and Council approved a private pop-up stadium on the Wanderers Grounds. While the field has been used by sports teams since the 1880s it was for amateur players. Now amateur soccer, rugby, football, Frisbee players will have 20% less field time-which by they pay for- so a developer can profit from our Common.

The Halifax Master Plan consultations needs to take inspiration from the work of others by starting with the 1994 Halifax Common plan, planning for the entire Common and expanding our green space.

Postpone Pop-up Stadium Decision, Complete Halifax Common Masterplan

The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area is to be considered for planning purposes as per the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

Dear HRM Mayor and Council

Re: Request to postpone decision on Private-for-profit stadium on Halifax Common’s Wanderers’ Grounds until completion of on-going Halifax Common Master Plan Consultation.

Presently HRM is in the midst of a public consultations for the Halifax Common’s Master-plan, a process which began in the December 2017. The consultant team, Upland Studios, CoLab and HTFC, are undertaking a range of opportunities for public feedback to help inform the creation of the Halifax Common Plan as per the attached map. In fact, this Wednesday, April 25th, the 3rd of five public consultations will be held.

At present less than 20% of the 235-acre Halifax Common remains as public open space. The draft Centre Plan intends to add up to 35,000 citizens to the Peninsula but does not plan for additional public green space or parks. We need to keep this important civic space available for public use. Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) therefore requests that the decision to sign a contract for a private pre-fab pop-up stadium on the Wanderers’ Grounds be deferred until the Masterplan is finished.  We stress that the Masterplan is for the entire Halifax Common as per the direction of the 1994 Plan (see attached map). Continue reading