Big kickoff in Ottawa

DEREK PUDDICOMBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

A Canadian Football League franchise hinges on renovating Frank Clair Stadium.

League commissioner Mark Cohon says the league has awarded four Ottawa businessmen a conditional franchise as long as they have access to a "stadium the CFL and fans deserve."

"Ottawa needs an adequate stadium," said Cohon. "We hope it will bring a renaissance to Frank Clair Stadium."

Businessmen Bill Shenkman, Jeff Hunt, Roger Greenberg and John Ruddy said Frank Clair Stadium was the only place to have a professional football team play ball and want to restore the stadium to its glory days.

Hunt, who has owned the Ottawa 67's for the past 10 years, said there is no other place the group wants a football team to play than at Frank Clair Stadium and haven't considered building a modern sports facility anywhere else in the city.

CONTROVERSY

Cohon understands the controversy that has surrounded the redevelopment plans of Lansdowne Park, but sports stadiums like Frank Clair play an important role in communities.

"You have success where there are neighbourhoods," said Cohon, who used the success of the SkyDome in Toronto as an example. "The one great thing about (the stadium) is the location and the accessibility to the people."

However, some city councillors disagree another football franchise needs to be located in the heart of the city.

Lansdowne Park lies in Coun. Clive Doucet's ward and he said with redevelopment plans for the park underway it's not even clear if the stadium will remain standing.

Last September, the city condemned the stadium's south side stands after it discovered stress fractures in the lower level.

Doucet said with an international design competition in full gear that's expected to wrap up in the fall, he's hearing that many residents want the 44-acre property turned into a green space.

"It feels like Mr. Hunt is throwing down the gauntlet and saying it's my way or the highway," said Doucet.

Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Steve Desroches said the new owners will have to dig into their own pockets and not turn to the city for significant financial help.

"This is a franchise that will have to swim on its own," he said.

Alta Vista Coun. Peter Hume said having a football team again won't impact Lansdowne's redevelopment plans.

"Ottawa has to have a stadium. It's what we envision for Lansdowne Park," said Hume.


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