September 28, 2012
CFL's return to Ottawa a 'certainty,' owner Jeff Hunt says2014 timeline intact, official announcement looms with Lansdowne project under way
By TIM BAINES, QMI Agency
An ownership group bringing the CFL back to Ottawa is still on track to put a team on the field here in 2014.
With legal challenges behind them and the reconstruction and revitalization of Lansdowne Park under way, it could be less than a month before the CFL officially announces its return to Ottawa.
“When we’re into the ground, that’s when the CFL will be able to use those words,” said Jeff Hunt, a partner in the CFL ownership group.
And they are scheduled to be “into the ground” in October, with construction of north-and south-side stands beginning, along with excavation of a parking garage.
With the Grey Cup falling soon after that in Toronto, there are plenty of positives.
“This will be the fifth or possibly the sixth Grey Cup we’ve gone to as a group,” said Hunt. “But it’s the first one we can go to where we have certainty. It will be wonderful to be there ... of all the Grey Cups, the 100th.
“It’s like Groundhog Day. Every time we’ve been approached at the Grey Cup, we’ve had to say we were hopeful and optimistic. And now, it’s not if anymore, it’s when. That’s a major feel-good.”
Hunt says the return of the CFL will continue to pick up momentum after that.
Barring any major setbacks, the timeline, which says the south-side stands will be completed in June of 2014, will allow for the team to play ball soon after.
“It’s going to be close, but the construction timeline still has us able to be on the field for 2014,” said Hunt.
“The league is aware of what is going on. And yes, there is some concern. But we’ve been assured it will be done for the start of the 2014 season.
“As we get into the next year, we’ll know whether we’re on schedule, behind or ahead of schedule. And at some point in 2013, we’ll have to make a call as to whether we’re on track or not. I’m not a construction guru and I’m not in the development business ... that’s my partners’ strength.”
The Ottawa CFL team is supposed to participate in the CFL draft next year, eligible to choose up to six players from a group of 17 fourth-year Canadians who have been red-shirted and who have used up only three years of eligibility in U.S. College football. Texas El-Paso offensive lineman Brander Craighead, whose roots are in Ottawa, is one possible target.
“The draft is the first, if you will, event in the timeline,” said Hunt.
“We can always do the draft, and God forbid, if there is a delay in construction, the CFL could disperse the players. But I hate speaking about that possibility. We’re moving ahead positively. I have a lot of confidence we’ll be ready for 2014. It’s amazing the interest that exists (in the CFL returning) all over Ottawa.”