Halifax appears to be all but forgotten — at least for now — in the eyes of CFL commissioner Mark Cohon.
“If we have a (regular-season) game in Moncton, we’d like to see a lot of fans from Halifax make the drive,” was all Cohon would say when asked where the city fits into his plans.
Moncton has effectively shouldered Halifax out of the equation in the race to become the CFL’s Atlantic expansion team and could host a regular-season game in September 2010.
A new 10,000-seat stadium — expandable to 20,000 with temporary seating — being built in Moncton for the 2010 world junior track and field championships has the New Brunswick city in the driver’s seat. Halifax’s inaction on the same front has Nova Scotia fading in the rearview mirror.
“I’ve had this conversation with many people,” Cohon said. “Because there is no stadium in Halifax, it makes it very difficult for the league to consider big events there.”
Exploring the market in Moncton and getting a team back to Ottawa are Cohon’s biggest priorities.
He said he is “working diligently” on getting a regular-season game in Moncton. Meanwhile, the ownership group of a conditional franchise in Ottawa is “making progress” in its effort to negotiate a stadium agreement with the city.
“If that comes to fruition, we’re probably looking at the Ottawa team getting back into the market in 2012,” Cohon said. “While hockey is Canada’s game, I think the CFL is Canada’s league, and we want to be in the nation’s capital.”
Cohon said the league faces a challenge to succeed in the face of an economic downturn, particularly in Ontario, but boasted about a number of positives for the league.
Six of eight teams broke even or turned a profit in 2008; attendance is higher than it’s been in 25 years; and television ratings on TSN were up 15 per cent in 2008.
“Those two benchmarks (TV ratings and ticket sales) that are so important for the league and so critical to the success of the league have been strong,” he said. “We’re looking forward to 2009. We think we’re going to have a good year.”