CFL digs in on deadline, demands 'indication' on Lansdowne

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The clock is ticking for city council and the "blue ribbon" team led by 67's owner Jeff Hunt to bring the CFL back to Ottawa.

Commissioner Mark Cohon told Sun Media yesterday the league is standing firm on a March expiration date for the conditional franchise granted to Hunt and partners Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and William Shenkman.

Cohon expects to know in January if there will be a deal between the Hunt group and the city to rejuvenate Lansdowne Park and Frank Clair Stadium, home of an expansion franchise expected to play in 2011. It was originally hoped for 2010, but the league now seems resigned to push back the start.

"I want to get an indication from the city on where they are. That's important. We have not discussed (an extension of the conditional status) with the governors. I think it's very important that we have a time period. We don't want to leave it sitting out there," Cohon said.

DON'T DISAPPOINT FANS

"We don't want to disappoint our fans, either. I think it's important the city react and work with that ownership group to make it happen."

Hunt, being joined here for Grey Cup week by Greenberg and Ruddy, meets with the CFL board today to give an update on the Lansdowne Live proposal.

The Hunt group, called "blue ribbon" by Cohon, is prepared to invest $120 million in upgrading the stadium and building an ampitheatre, ponds and gardens, a hotel, sports fields and market.

A motion by Coun. Clive Doucet, an opponent of the Hunt group proposal, to reopen the international design competition was withdrawn after it became clear it would not pass, so city managers are working exclusively with the Hunt proposal.

Cohon, meanwhile, also confirmed he had spoken to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk about a CFL franchise in Ottawa, but not since the league granted the conditional franchise and gave exclusive rights in Ottawa to the Hunt group last spring.

"I am committed to those partners," Cohon said. "We have great leaders and that's important."

Hunt is comfortable working within the hard deadline set down by the league.

We have a lot of respect for that. We're trying to work to that deadline."


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