College Road, RR#1, Windsor, N.S.
Asking price: $1,380,000
Lot size: 23.78 Acres
Agent: Dave Kerr, Avison Young (Canada) Inc.
A family of pumpkin farmers in Nova Scotia who have been the stewards of a famous hockey site known as Long Pond are looking to sell their piece of pond hockey history. The price: $1.38-million.
But how do you put a price on hockey history? According to commercial real estate agent Dave Kerr of Avison Young – retained to sell the pond and a connecting land parcel – start with the going rate for farmland in the area and triple it.
Actually, only the smaller of the two parcels for sale has a massive premium: there’s a 16.5 acre triangular parcel that would give road access to the pond and the price for that is about $40,000 an acre (still about 33 per cent higher than recent comparable prices for local land). The seven-acre parcel that contains Long Pond itself is going for about $100,000 an acre. How did Mr. Kerr arrive at that figure? His clients. “They said, ‘We want a million dollars,’” Mr. Kerr said. The pond parcel also comes with a trademark for Long Pond.
Danny Dill’s family traces its history in the region back to the 1700s and he said the land that contains Long Pond was purchased by the family in 1878, the same year his hometown of Windsor, N.S. was incorporated. For decades it was a regular mixed farm in the Annapolis Valley – cattle, orchards, vegetables – but Mr. Dill’s father was an avid hockey fan and memorabilia collector with a flair for promotion. Mr. Dill, who is 55, said that all his life people would pull up to the farmhouse day and night and ask to see Long Pond.
The property today
The reality for Mr. Dill is that Long Pond has charm, but giant pumpkins pay the bills. His father, who died in 2008, began growing mega-gourds in the 1970s and the farm’s main business is selling pumpkin varieties (and patented Dill’s Atlantic Giants seeds to growers elsewhere), the farm gets thousands of visitors every fall looking to pose for selfies with gigantic Dills.
Over the course of the past decade the town flirted with the idea leveraging Long Pond into some much-needed local infrastructure. A plan to build a new rink on the site was announced, millions of dollars in provincial and municipal funding was promised and it seemed as if a community calls itself “the birthplace of hockey” might make this private pond into a public resource.
But as Dill tells it: “Politics got in the way.” The $12-million project was snarled up in the tense negotiations over a proposed municipal amalgamation, and when next-door town of West Hants pulled its funding from the plan the whole project collapsed. The rink is being built at another site.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the whole arena fiasco and how it went down influenced them to sell,” Mr. Kerr said.
“I was disappointed for sure. … I felt bad for a lot of people who spent years and time to work at it,” said Mr. Dill, who has long harboured grand visions for the pond. “I could just see this thing exploding … if somebody took this by the horns, somebody that had deep pockets or resources, it could be one big hockey heritage theme park.”
That, in part is what fuelled the valuation, Mr. Kerr said.
“They keep bringing up the Cooperstown model, they think if this were in the [United] States there’d already be a resort there,” Mr. Kerr said.
It’s an intriguing comparison: Not only is Cooperstown, N.Y., the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but there are claims that baseball was invented right there on a farmer’s field now called Doubleday Field.
But claims such as that are much disputed. Historians have found copious evidence of forms of baseball being played decades before its alleged Cooperstown birth in 1839, just as there are dissenters who say that Long Pond cannot be not the “cradle of hockey” the Dills describe. Montreal and Kingston have claims to the title in Canada and there are records of forms of hockey called “bandy” and “shinty” played on ice in Scotland and England more than a century prior to games of “hurley” on Long Pond that local records refer to. Indisputably, people have been playing pond hockey there for a very long time (the Dills have found pucks in the muck at the edge of the pond that are more than 100 years old).
Long Pond is clearly a piece of Canada’s hockey history, Mr. Dill said he’s heard from the Hockey Hall of Fame asking him to bottle some pond water and ship it to Toronto before the sale. “I think maybe because they want a bottle of water while it is still owned by the Dill family,” Mr. Dill said.
A Favourite Space
Over the years many a hockey legend has dropped in: Guy Lafleur and Ray Bourque stick out in Mr. Dill’s mind, and his one regret is Bobby Orr has never skated on Long Pond. He was very pleased to host a member of a famed hockey family with agricultural roots: the Sutters. Rich Sutter – who played 13 seasons in the NHL and racked up 315 points and 1,411 penalty minutes – stood in the middle of the pond and reportedly told Mr. Dill, “If this is not hockey heaven, I don’t know what is.” It’s a line the Dill’s printed onto a photo of the pond in winter and still sell for $25 a pop.
Rather than wrangle over exactly what role the pond played in Canada’s hockey history, Mr. Kerr prefers to keep this transaction simple. “I’m not selling the birthplace of hockey, or the home of hockey, I am a selling two PIDs [parcel identifiers] and one with a trademark,” he said.
The reception in the community has been mostly positive, though Mr. Kerr jokes that his colleagues are a little alarmed by all the hoopla considering his usual work involves succession planning and selling golf resorts. “'Jeez Dave, why don’t you sell an office building’ they say,” Mr. Kerr said.
“We’re not overwhelmed with people looking to buy, we’ve had a few offers I would say are credible. It’s hard to find out if they have any connection to the sport,” Mr. Kerr said.
Is there someone who wants to make this small town on the south side of the Bay of Fundy into a hockey tourist hotspot? “I have faith that something special will happen,” Mr. Dill said.
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