The Renegades might have a real-life Urban cowboy riding to their rescue.
Calgary multimillionaire Bruce Urban, a real estate developer and entrepreneur, spoke with CFL commissioner Tom Wright yesterday about purchasing the team.
"If it's the right deal and the right opportunity, I'm interested," Urban from said his office in Airdrie, Alta.
Better news for Renegades fans is the league is pushing a new owner to have everything in place to salvage the 2006 season in Ottawa.
"That's the goal and it's what the league wants," said Urban. "The league's willing to kick in to help get things going."
Urban, 40, made his money in real estate and owns a recreational vehicle dealership with five locations and some 250 employees throughout Alberta.
He also owns the National Lacrosse League's Edmonton Rush, which he bought from the league as an expansion club for $2 million.
"He's well qualified financially to own and operate a CFL franchise. He has the money and he has the smarts," NLL commissioner Jim Jennings said yesterday from his New York office.
Urban's interest in keeping the Renegades alive in Ottawa is an about-face from his stance last week, when he told Sun Media that he'd only buy the team to move it to Halifax.
"Another year in Ottawa would be suicide and my feeling is everyone there is ready to bail out. Ottawa has proven it is not the right city," Urban told Sun Media.
But he had a different opinion yesterday.
"The bottom line is that Ottawa is a great city, a great sports city, and the league is not entertaining an option of moving the franchise," he said.
Urban will arrive with Duane Vienneau, president of the Rush, to take a look at the team's facilities at Lansdowne Park.
"Somebody is going to have to go in there and lose a bit of money for a year or two for it to work. It's the only way it's going to be turned around," Urban said.
"It's going to take a couple of good people to really win the community over. I'm not convinced that (previous ownership) has treated it like a year-round business. You need to be involved in charity, in the community and with kids."
TRIED TO BUY STAMPS
Born in Regina and raised in Calgary, Urban became a CFL fan as a youngster selling pop and popcorn in the stands of McMahon Stadium at Stampeders games.
Urban made a pitch to buy the Stampeders when the team was up for sale last year, but a group headed by Calgary businessman John Forzani purchased the club from Kevin Feterik.
"I love sports and entertainment," said Urban. "I like going to sporting events and I think (owning) a CFL team would be outstanding. The league is exciting and there's so much history."
Urban brought in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and model Brooke Burke, host of last summer's hit TV reality program Rock Star: INXS, for guest appearances at Edmonton lacrosse games during the winter.
But yesterday, he joked he won't be wearing beads during next week's visit, referring to the ill-fated Mardi Gras promotion at last season's Renegades games.
"If I take over the team, a no-beads rule will be in effect," he said.
Meanwhile, the CFL denied a report in yesterday's Sun that Renegades coach John Jenkins and his football staff had been told they would not be retained by the league.
"All the coaches are still on the payroll. They have not been fired," said league spokeswoman Alexis Redmond.
Jenkins said he has spoken to nobody from the CFL about his future.
"There have been a lot of distractions and problems on the business side, but nothing like that," he said.
Jenkins, however, said there would be no football in Ottawa this season "unless something major turns around here."
The league also denied reports that a group of league officials had been dispatched to the Renegades' offices for an inventory.
Meanwhile, the president of the Canadian Football League Players' Association is hoping the Ottawa market survives without shutting it down and forcing a player dispersal draft.
"I'm hoping we don't get to that point," Stu Laird said in a phone interview from his home in Calgary. "I'm hoping there's a team there."
-- with files from Perry Lefko