CFL commish calls project a benchmark

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:32 PM ET

EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos held an open house for the CFL’s head honcho.

Taking a tour of Commonwealth Stadium’s renovations during a stop in Edmonton Tuesday to kick off Grey Cup ticket sales to the public, league commissioner Mark Cohon is encouraged by what he saw.

“There is a Renaissance around our league,” he said during the keynote speech at the Hot to Huddle Grey Cup kickoff lunch at the Shaw Conference Centre. “I had my hardhat tour (Tuesday) in Edmonton of the new fieldhouse facility and what’s going on in Commonwealth Stadium.

“It is remarkable what’s being built there. It’s going to be a great recruitment tool for new players. It’s almost unfair in terms of the advantage you’ll get, but other teams are catching up.”

With arena overhauls or new plans in place in B.C., Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Montreal, Cohon said a legacy is being left for fans of the future.

“But you are the benchmark,” Cohon told Eskimos fans. “This fieldhouse, it’s 75 yards by 75 yards; the locker-room is going to be spectacular, I think the NFL would be jealous. It’s not just about our teams, those are community-building opportunities as well, where people in the community can use those facilities.”

But there is another city Cohon and Co. are paying particular attention to when it comes to stadium talks. The league is looking to take another run at an Ottawa franchise in time for the 2013 season.

“We are trying to get back into the nation’s capital. On June 28, there is the final vote by city council on the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, “Cohon said of the $300 million project. “It’s quite remarkable to rebuild Frank Clair Stadium and to rebuild that part of Ottawa as sort of a beacon for the entire community.”

There is no doubt the Cohon era will be remembered for building the league, but Cohon said the projects will outlast his memory.

“This is not about my tenure, this is about being stewards for generations and generations to come,” Cohon said. “We focus on the short-term in 2010 and ’11 and ’12, but these stadium projects are really about the long-term.”

While the stadiums have taken up much of the CFL’s attention, Cohon said the players who will be in them can’t be forgotten.

While a new collective-bargaining agreement has been reached in principle between the league and the CFL Players Association, it must still pass through the proper channels in order for football to continue, business as usual.

“Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the specifics yet,” Cohon said. “It needs to be ratified by both sides, so there will be a vote in the coming weeks. I can mention that there will be a drug policy, but the specifics of that (will be announced) once both sides have ratified the agreement.”

The league has come under fire for not having a drug policy in place long before Cohon’s appointment in 2007.

“We have to work hand-in-hand with the players and that’s what we’ve done on this,” he said. “It’s an issue of leadership on the drug policy and I think we really need to step up.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos