Ditch parking in Ottawa stadium revamp plans, former team head suggests

A plan by four Ottawa businessmen to bring back a Canadian Football League team should not include building a parking lot or garage if Frank Clair Stadium is renovated, says the former CEO of the city's last football franchise.

A plan by four Ottawa businessmen to bring back a Canadian Football League team should not include building a parking lot or garage if Frank Clair Stadium is renovated, says the former CEO of the city's last football franchise.

The remarks by former Ottawa Renegades CEO John Lisowski followed the league announcement Tuesday that it's awarding a conditional Ottawa franchise to the group of four prospective owners as long as it can reach an agreement with the city to fix up the downtown stadium.

On Wednesday, Mayor Larry O'Brien said the owner group has already told him parking at Frank Clair would be key to any deal to bring a team back to the stadium.

"People can't be forced to walk five, six blocks to park their cars," O'Brien said.

"So I would think that some form of underground parking or some form of parking garage would ultimately be part of this process should — should — a CFL franchise go ahead here at Lansdowne Park."

But Lisowski, who headed the CFL's Renegades from February 2004 to July 2005, said fans should walk, take public transit or park their cars on the street, as they have done before.

"When you do have a downtown stadium, the thing you've got to give up is parking," Lisowski told CBC News.

"For example, Hamilton has no parking. Same as Toronto. Toronto has no parking. And parking garages are exorbitantly expensive."

Previous teams' fans walked to games

The Renegades lasted from the 2002 season to 2006. Fans of that team and the previous Rough Riders have long walked through the Glebe neighbourhood and crossed the Bank Street bridge to catch games at the stadium.

"It's always been difficult to sustain any level of attendance for … football in Ottawa," Lisowski said.

"I mean, we averaged somewhere … around 17,000. I think you need 25,000 to break even, and 25,000 at a reasonable ticket price, which is somewhere between $40 and $50."

The CFL's conditional franchise hinges on whether the group — which includes Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt and local real-estate developers Bill Shenkman, Roger Greenberg and John Ruddy — can obtain a lease agreement with the city that includes a renovation plan for Frank Clair Stadium in order to make it a suitable venue.

O'Brien said taking public transit may factor into the decision about the future of the stadium and nearby Landsdowne Park.