Ottawa

CFL plan not tied to Lansdowne redesign: team owners

The Canadian Football League's requirement that Ottawa build a suitable stadium in order to bring a team to the city will have a minimal effect on redesign plans for the patch of prime real estate surrounding the stadium site, say the owners of the new franchise.

The Canadian Football League's requirement that Ottawa build a suitable stadium in order to bring a team to the city will have a minimal effect on redesign plans for the patch of prime real estate surrounding the stadium site, say the owners of the new franchise.

"We do not think that anything we do at Frank Clair Stadium would have to be linked to an overall development," said Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's and leader of the group that will own the CFL's conditional Ottawa franchise.

CFL chair Mark Cohon said Tuesday that the league had approved the conditional awarding of the franchise to Hunt and three Ottawa real estate developers: Roger Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Minto Developments; John Ruddy, the president of Trinity Development Group; and Bill Shenkman, chairman of Shenkman Corp.

In order to play, the team must obtain a lease agreement with the city that includes a renovation plan for Frank Clair Stadium in order to make it a suitable venue.

The announcement raised fears among some Ottawa residents that the new franchise would be tied to specific development plans for Lansdowne Park, the 18-hectare plot of prime real estate in Ottawa's central Glebe neighbourhood that surrounds the stadium. The city is currently holding a competition to redesign the park as well as public consultations.

On Wednesday, the new owners tried to allay fears that the announcement of the new team would damage the consultation and redesign process.

Proper stadium 'all we're looking for': Greenberg

"A lot has been made of the fact that three of us at the table here are real estate developers," Greenberg said, adding that he thinks people should instead consider the fact that the new owners are strong civic boosters. "We are individuals who in our business and in our daily lives both philanthropically and business-wise are committed to the success of our city."

He and his group will be satisfied if all they end up with is "a team and a proper stadium in which to watch and enjoy the game," he said. "That's all we're looking for."

Shenkman reiterated that point.

"We need a facility and there may be some things that are required to fulfil that, but we are not envisaging the entire site."

Cohon said the league's board of governors grilled the four new owners prior to the sale and was satisfied that the team bid was not a land grab.

Mayor Larry O'Brien, who became the new team's first season ticket holder, also gave his assurances.

"I certainly made that very clear to this group, that we can't commit, that we have to listen to what the citizens and what the councillors say," he said, adding that the city won't be rushed into a decision about the stadium.

Both the league and the owners said they want to field a team in 2010.

Frank Clair Stadium was the home of the Ottawa Renegades CFL team until the franchise was shut down in 2006. Before them, the Ottawa Rough Riders CFL team played at the stadium until 1996.

Last fall, engineers deemed the lower south-side stands of the stadium unsafe because of cracks in the structure. The staff recommended the stands be demolished.

That led to discussions about the future of the stadium and the park.