Third and 2010 for CFL

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

On what should otherwise be recognized as a great and glorious day in the nation's capital, it is necessary to tug back on the reins and ride forward with cautious optimism.

After all, the football is now in the hands of politicians. You gotta know they can find a way to cough it up.

"Lansdowne Park is broke," a frequent visitor to the Frank Clair Stadium/Civic Centre facility who has some knowledge of the inner workings said yesterday. "Financially and physically."

Even city officials with no interest in sports would be responsible enough to make the necessary repairs, right?

Well, here's the opportunity.

There will be a CFL team in Ottawa -- and the nickname won't be Renegades -- just as soon as the once majestic castle by the canal gets a makeover. The plan is for the 2010 season. That means councillors have to get crackin'. They have to decide on the proper course of action, and they have to do it quickly. There is doubt they can pull it off. You should hope that's not the case.

The choices from where we sit appear clear. The city pays for the necessary refurbishing -- believed by some to be in the $30- and $40-million range -- or sells the facility to Ottawa's new "conditional" owners to let them do it, then start raking in the taxes.

Either way, there's some big cash to be made, which itself would be a nice transformation from the money pit Frank Clair Stadium has become. And the developing should be done by the developers who will own the football franchise: Trinity Development Group's John Ruddy, Minto Development Inc.'s Roger Greenberg and Shenkman Corp.'s Bill Shenkman. The word is they don't get much bigger or better.

Meanwhile, both the football stadium and the arena need some serious work. The south-side stands at Frank Clair were condemned last summer when fractures were found in the cement. The faults in the rink aren't as dangerous, but nonetheless embarrassing. On a walk along the concourse level you will see numerous buckets catching the water that is leaking through the roof. Seats are covered in garbage bags to spare them the damage done through more leakage. Never mind that the rink has become one of the oldest and most outdated in the OHL.

As a major sports facility in the downtown area of a nation's capital, the entire place is a joke.

67's owner Jeff Hunt, who will serve as the new football team's operator, has been bubbling with excitement since it became clear to he and the rest of the group that an agreement would be reached with the CFL on a conditional franchise. Hunt knows the strength and credibility of this consortium, just as the league does. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon had to be tripping over himself to get a deal done with these guys. For how long has it been agreed that what was needed to make pro football a success in Ottawa was a group of local businessmen with deep pockets? Shenkman, Greenberg and Ruddy are very, very rich.

Combined with Hunt, they really do form a Dream Team.

Not only has he won a Memorial Cup and been to two others in 10 years as the 67's boss, but Hunt's marketing and business skills have the team's attendance jump to near capacity, whereas before his arrival it was about 7,000-8,000 less per game.

The refurbished football stadium will seat 25,000 and Hunt, who held true on his guarantee to fill every chair at the Civic Centre his first game as owner, will be determined to give Ottawa's its first football sellout since, what, the 1970s?

The CFL has turned around considerably since Ottawa was last in league three years ago, Cohon told his audience at the Algonquin College Sports Business Symposium last week. A game that's always been great, now the business part of it is starting to work. Now eight teams, there is a strong desire to add two more, but there's nothing yet close to happening in Moncton or Halifax or Quebec City.

Some CFL owners would therefore like to push Ottawa off until 2012, when there's a better chance to increase membership by two. Many think Ottawa won't be ready until then anyway, what with the pace politicians go about their work.

But today, when you meet Ruddy, Greenberg and Shenkman and hear about their plans at a press conference introducing Ottawa's new conditional owners, four years will seem like a very long time.

Now that they're hooked, you really don't want to let these guys get away.


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