Plan not just football

A group headed by Jeff Hunt (left) to bring back football to Ottawa will make a proposal to city...

A group headed by Jeff Hunt (left) to bring back football to Ottawa will make a proposal to city staff in September. (Sun Media/Errol McGihon)

SHANE ROSS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

The group trying to bring CFL football back to Ottawa by 2010 will make its proposal to city staff for a redeveloped Lansdowne Park in mid-September.

"We're putting a full-court press together," said front-man Jeff Hunt. "There has been a misconception that our proposal is only about CFL football, but it is much broader than that."

Hunt was referring to a poll published this week that suggested 48% of Ottawans don't want the stadium maintained for a new CFL franchise. The poll also suggested that 69% of respondents preferred an "urban oasis to showcase the waterway, farmers markets and community events," and 46% liking the idea of a creating a centre for arts and entertainment.

Hunt said simply maintaining Frank Clair Stadium for football was never part of his proposal, and given the choice, who wouldn't want an "urban oasis?"

"Our proposal combines elements of all the choices," he said. "Fixing up Frank Clair Stadium is not limited to football any more than Scotiabank Place has been limited to Senators hockey."

Hunt would not get into specific details about the proposal until he delivers it to city staff, but his vision is that Lansdowne Park becomes a venue that would appeal to sports fans and non-sports fans, and not just during a sporting event, but any time during the week.

"It has to be a must-visit attraction when you come to Ottawa -- the Parliament buildings, the canal and Lansdowne Park. The kind of place where you bring friends from out of town to see."

That is sure to include retail shops, restaurants, bars and a venue for arts and entertainment. And rest assured, Hunt said, the farmers markets and community events would not be affected by his proposal.

"I think the Glebe will love it, it will enhance living in the Glebe," said Hunt, who also owns the 67's junior hockey team.

The CFL in Ottawa dates back to Confederation with the Rough Riders. The team folded in 1997 and returned as the Renegades in 2002. After four seasons of financial losses, the Renegades were suspended before the 2006 season. Last spring, the CFL awarded the Ottawa franchise to Hunt and his group, providing they redevelop Frank Clair Stadium.

"Our group got together to figure out what would make CFL football successful in Ottawa like it is in so many other markets," Hunt said. "What has evolved is it became a solution for Lansdowne Park.

"If there are 10 reasons why football hasn't worked, seven or eight of them have to do with the facility. Today, people have an expectation of what a pro sports experience should be like and that's not the case at Frank Clair Stadium."

He compared it to other business models.

"If you were trying to have a restaurant in Ottawa and had a dilapidated interior, rickety chairs and just a scuzzy environment, even if you had five-star food, it probably wouldn't succeed."

Hunt said the Senators have "raised the bar for what a pro sports experience should be," and he wants football fans to have that same feeling.

His meeting next month with city staff will give him an indication of how close he is to making that happen.


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