Lansdowne Live makes the only play

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

The CFL played the nostalgia card at City Hall yesterday.

As the two groups battling to bring an outdoor stadium took one final shot in front of a joint meeting of the city's corporate services and economic development committee, and the planning and environment committee, the Lansdowne Live group called an audible on the last play.

It was the only call in the playbook at which soccer couldn't take a kick.

While there were plenty of speakers present, the notable voices were former Rough Riders, who spoke from the heart.

Backed by the presence of CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, retired Riders' Mark Kosmos, Jock Climie and Bob McKeown took their allotted five minutes to speak separately about bringing football back to Ottawa.

"I remember as a player looking up on the Bank St. bridge and watching the people come ... carrying their children on their shoulders. That's when I knew we were doing something for families," said Kosmos, a fierce linebacker who suited up for Ottawa from 1973 to 1977.

That's the feeling the Lansdowne Live group -- Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy, Jeff Hunt and Bill Shenkman -- wants to bring back.

They all maintained this debate isn't about football vs. soccer, but that's exactly what it's about. The reality is the CFL has a long-standing tradition in Canada and Eugene Melnyk is vying to bring an expansion Major League Soccer franchise into a fickle marketplace.

Sure, the detractors were able to throw darts that football has failed here in the past. But McKeown -- a host on CBC's Fifth Estate and a resident of nearby Chelsea -- made the point the CFL's Riders and Renegades were victims of bad ownership and losing records.

"I think it's arguable that many times the most exciting place to be was Lansdowne on a game day," said McKeown, who played six seasons with the Riders and won a Grey Cup in 1973.

'PART OF THE CROWD'

"To be part of that crowd, I grew up in Ottawa and I went to Hopewell Public School across the Bank St. bridge, and I still remember how it felt and smelled and sounded to walk down Holmwood Ave. with my father at the age of seven, joining the throng and seeing people come the other way. I just remember being part of what was the biggest crowd in my lifetime.

"I heard someone on CBC news saying this morning that if there weren't a stadium at Lansdowne Park we wouldn't be having this debate. But, that's the essential point: There is a stadium at Lansdowne Park. It's been great and there it can be great again."

While Melnyk left chief operating officer Cyril Leeder to make what turned out to be an uninspiring presentation, Greenberg's group was backed by Cohon, who made the trip from Toronto, spoke first to council and promised the city would be successful again in the CFL.

Cohon later told Sun Media he's confident if the group gets the go-ahead from the city to negotiate the final details of a plan for Lansdowne Park, the CFL team will begin playing in the spring of 2011.

'MAKES SENSE FOR CITY'

"There's a lot of different opinions that come out of these things, but I'm pleased that our group, in a very public forum, was able to present exactly what they're talking about," said Cohon, who has given the Greenberg group until September to get a deal in place with the city.

"The project (at Lansdowne) they have in front of them is one that makes sense for the city. It also makes sense for the CFL. Yes, 2011 would be the earliest we could do it, but I think it's important that (the city) has shovel-in-the-ground-ready projects. That's one of the objectives here."

While no decision has been made -- and nothing should be taken for granted -- there seems to be an appetite for the Lansdowne Live bid. Judging by yesterday's presentation, it appeared the CFL group scored a touchdown.


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