CFL's most wanted?

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:32 AM ET

Suddenly, the Ottawa Renegades are a hot CFL property.

What a difference a week makes.

Just nine days ago, the franchise appeared all but dead when Senators owner Eugene Melnyk announced he wouldn't buy the team, extinguishing the last hope for the league to survive in this city.

But now it appears at least seven individuals or groups have contacted the CFL about buying the team and saving it from oblivion -- including an inquiry from a local group.

That's the good news, but there's also a down side. Several of the interested parties aren't in the game to keep the team in Ottawa.

In all of this, a new hero appears to be emerging for CFL fans in this city -- Tom Wright, the CFL commissioner.

Sources say Wright is insisting the buyer of the Renegades must keep the team in the nation's capital.

As usual in the CFL, the commissioner's stance is being met with opposition. It's believed some governors are leery about the league's future prospects in Ottawa, and wonder if a move to Quebec City, Halifax or Windsor would be in the CFL's best interest. Moncton, N.B., has also been considered as a potential site for a franchise.

AIMING FOR 2006

It's also believed Wright is trying to have a team on the field at Frank Clair Stadium in 2006.

Some governors aren't in the same kind of rush to find an owner in such a short time frame, and would prefer the team take a year hiatus -- perhaps two -- before returning to the fold under stable ownership.

Earlier this week, Calgary businessman Bruce Urban announced his interest in buying the team after being convinced by Wright that the 'Gades can survive in Ottawa.

That view was a complete turnaround in his opinion of the Ottawa market last week, in which he stated buying the team and keeping it in the capital would be "suicide."

Urban plans to arrive in the city early next week to take a look at the team's facilities at Lansdowne Park and get a better understanding of the public's feeling toward the Renegades and the CFL.

Six other groups are vying for the franchise. There's another bid from Calgary, two more believed to be coming from this province, another from a group of investors in Florida with Canadian roots, and interest from Quebec City.

The Quebec bid wants to move the franchise there, but Wright is making good on a pledge made earlier this month in which he said the CFL was committed to building a 10-team league from the current nine, with one of those franchises being located in Ottawa.

LOCAL BID IN PICTURE

Also of note is an inquiry made by an Ottawa group, who sources say is headed up by Po Krepski, owner of an Ottawa mortgage brokerage.

Meanwhile, it's believed the league or CFL governors have approached CanWest Global executive vice-president David Asper. But on Wednesday, Asper told the Winnipeg Sun he was not interested in Renegades ownership.

Asper also said the same thing last week during a radio interview in Winnipeg.

The former chairman of the community-owned Winnipeg Blue Bombers was rumoured to have interest in the club last year when the league was seeking an owner, before Bernie Glieberman took majority control of the club last May.

Wright announced on March 22 that Glieberman and minority owner Bill Smith had agreed to allow the league to find new owners of the team, expected to lose at least $3 million if the team plays during the 2006 season.

The day before, the league's board of governors had rejected a Glieberman offer to partially fund those losses through the season if the league and the other eight teams helped pay the bills.

Wright and league board members David Braley and Tom Robinson are on a search committee to find the new owner.

BARRE.CAMPBELL@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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