March 20, 2008
Back in CFL HuntOttawa on the radar again
By DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media
Improvements to a broken-down building and an agreement the would-be tenants can live with appear to be all that's standing in the way of Ottawa fielding another CFL team in the 2010 season.
A local power group fronted by 67's owner Jeff Hunt that is backed by wealthy developers John Ruddy, William Shenkman and Roger Greenberg is expected to be granted a conditional franchise for the nation's capital next week.
The franchise fee, previously a contentious point, is "something we're trying to work through," Hunt said yesterday. "It's one of the issues we feel very comfortable with at this point."
More minor details are to be addressed at the convenience of those involved in the deal-making process.
"Are we close?" Hunt asked. "Yes, I believe we are.
"There are a lot of components to any conditional franchise," he added. "We're just going through all the details that need to be dealt with."
The CFL refused comment yesterday.
Construction crews will have some work to do at Frank Clair Stadium before it can house a CFL team and its fans.
Late last summer, city engineers discovered fractures in the lower south-side stands and had them condemned. Along with the tearing down and rebuilding of the structure, further upgrades are required.
"There are about 10 reasons why football hasn't been working in this town," Hunt told PROFIT magazine in November. "Five of them have to do with that stadium."
Yesteday, Hunt said: "Frank Clair Stadium is in need of extensive repairs, and not just those necessary after the condemnation of the south-side stands. I think it's widely acknowledged there's been a need of a modernization of the stadium for many years.
"Extensive renovations are needed to make it suitable."
Interested in purchasing and redeveloping the Lansdowne Park area, Hunt said his group doesn't need to own the facility or the property to proceed with plans for securing a team. It just needs a workable arrangement.
He said discussions with the city about Frank Clair Stadium would take place after the formalization of the deal with the CFL.
"We would have felt it to be premature to approach the city with maybes and scenarios," said Hunt. "There are no have to's. I think we need an arrangement to give us a viable business model. I really am not comfortable discussing this in any more detail because we still have work to do with the CFL."
Landing a franchise sooner rather than later would only be of benefit to the group's efforts, both on and off the field.
Hunt, who marketed the 67's into one of the pre-eminent Canadian junior hockey league franchises, first became interested in expanding his business to include the CFL back in 2006. His involvement with Gold Gate Capital ended, however, when the investment firm's main money man took ill and backed away.
Still keen on using the 67's infrastructure to build a football team that could survive and thrive, and tantalized by images of a state-of-the-art Frank Clair Stadium with luxury suites, Hunt hooked up with three of Ottawa's top real estate moguls in Greenberg, the chairman and CEO of Minto Developments Inc., Ruddy, the founder and president of Trinity Development Group and Shenkman, chairman of Shenkman Corp.