CFL franchise remains a dream

SUSAN SHERRING -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

In hindsight, perhaps The Dream Team wasn't the best monicker for the group brought together to bring Canadian professional football back to Ottawa.

The Dream Team is how CFL commissioner Mark Cohon described the quartet which held a news conference yesterday to announce they'd received a conditional franchise for the nation's capital.

No doubt, the group is incredibly qualified to run a successful football franchise.

As Osgoode Coun. Doug Thompson said, if this group can't make it work, no group can.

The group is composed of Bill Shenkman, chairman of the Shenkman Group of Companies, Roger Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Minto, John Ruddy, president of Trinity Development Group and Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ottawa 67's.

With three top-notch local developers passionate about Ottawa and football -- along with the expertise and equal passion of Hunt -- it would seem this group is unbeatable.

But unfortunately, the four are soon going to learn getting the conditional franchise was the easiest task of all.

Now they're about to embark on a process that will surely open their eyes to the more tedious, often obstinate and slow-moving side of city hall.

And their dreams might end up being just that.

There are 24 councillors who seldom agree on anything, and sometimes find the debating of the smallest items incredibly fascinating.

Interesting to note just three councillors -- Thompson, Orleans Coun. Bob Monette and Kanata Coun. Marianne Wilkinson -- joined Mayor Larry O'Brien at the packed news conference yesterday.

Not much of a show of support.

Now, there's a "process" in place -- a design competition to determine what's best for the future of Lansdowne.

Even O'Brien, who used to put enthusiasm ahead of process, admitted yesterday there was no way this group could supersede the design competition now in place, no breaking of the rules, no hurrying of the process.

Despite saying he's not willing to bend the rules, O'Brien has signed up for tickets, and did appear to side with the group.

"We are all just so delighted. This is a sports-crazy city and the addition of a professional football team makes a lot of sense.

"We have a process we're going through, but I believe your timing is perfect."

Perfect? How so?

The group says they need a decision from the city within four to six months if they're to be on the field by the 2010 season.

The design competition doesn't formally launch until late spring, with an announcement of the winning design being announced in January 2009. But no one was willing yesterday to let such details bog them down.

City hall doesn't like to be rushed, but it loves tinkering and toiling.

Unlike a story first leaked to the media months ago, the group said they wanted to not just bring the CFL back to Ottawa, but also to redevelop Lansdowne Park. In fact, Hunt said at the time it was impossible to make the team financially viable without also having the rights to development.

Yesterday, that line had changed significantly. In fact, Greenberg went so far as to suggest they don't even know if they'll take part in the design process.

Talk of redevelopment has been replaced with talk of the passion for football, and Ruddy told the crowd he grew up with Frank Clair as a neighbour.

"I'd spend hours after hours with him discussing strategies, players, skills," he said.

Hunt might be the biggest dreamer of them all, appearing convinced council will be so impressed by their proposal, that their plan will be the obvious choice.

One thing is certain.

City council responds to the squeaky wheel.

If you want CFL here in the capital, make your voice known.

If you don't, you'd better be at least as vocal.


Videos

Photos