Desperate to save Lansdowne Park from the evils of a football stadium, it appeared Capital Coun. Clive Doucet was ready for a brawl.
His main opponent? Roger Greenberg, head of Minto and the voice for Lansdowne Live, which appears headed to get the green light to bring pro-football back to Ottawa and partner with the city to redevelop Lansdowne Park.
Doucet wasn't giving up without a fight.
He's had difficulty getting over the loss of north-south light rail, now it seems he's traumatized over the demise of the international design competition for the downtown park.
And in his frustration, Doucet began to blame Greenberg and his group for putting forward their own idea for redeveloping Lansdowne Park.
His voice raised, Doucet got angry with Greenberg for not participating in the International Design Competition.
For the record, that competition never got off the ground, and Greenberg had nothing to do with it.
Council didn't move ahead with the competition, and no, Greenberg didn't have a vote.
Yes, it sounds wacky.
Greenberg, 67's owner Jeff Hunt, Trinity's John Ruddy and Bill Shenkman, they're all high-profile, well-known businessmen.
(Speaking of businessmen, this group could sure use a woman among them, but that's a column for another day.)
Of course, that's just how crazy city council is some days, that a city councillor would criticize a group of entrepreneurs for coming forward with a good idea.
Shame on them.
They're going to put out $30 million for a CFL franchise, and in return, they're going to have the likes of Doucet, a Glebite through and through, raise his voice in anger at them.
Silly, rude, sure. Out of the ordinary for this council? Unfortunately not.
Greenberg wasn't above getting a little hot under the collar himself as he was being blamed for Doucet's woes -- and started putting on his own boxing gloves.
"We've been asking you for months, we've been asking you to show some leadership. That's all we're asking. You've got reams of information.
"Just decide as a statement of principle. Do you want an open-air stadium?" Greenberg demanded.
Mayor Larry O'Brien told Doucet not to badger anyone, adding he hoped Greenberg wasn't offended, while Orleans Coun. Bob Monette apologized for some of the questions, which he said seemed to be suggesting Greenberg and his colleagues were trying to "rip off the city."
Greenberg assured the joint committee members that being the head of a family run business, and having two brothers demanding answers, meant yesterday's grilling was mild in comparison.
Former councillor George Kelly had no tolerance for Doucet's whine.
"Can you imagine Jimmy Durrell sitting there listening to that?" Kelly suggested.
Interesting to note that before serving as a councillor, Kelly was a city employee, chauffeuring mayors -- including none other than the late Lorry Greenberg, uncle to Roger.
Kelly wasn't the only former politician on hand to speak out in favour of the Lansdowne Live project.
In the room that bears his name, former regional chairman Andy Haydon urged councillors to get on with it.
"It's about investment in your community. This is an investment," he said.
"How lucky can you get? You've got someone here you can trust. There's some momentum, people want to see something going. They want to see the momentum this city appears not to have had to date. The greatest cost of all is doing nothing. Delay is the same as doing nothing.
"Making decisions is not a popularity contest. Sometimes you have to do something that's not popular. The public has some serious concerns and thoughts about this council as a whole and its inability to make a decision.
"Prove them wrong."
Well said, Mr. Haydon.
THE LANSDOWNE LIVE PITCH
- The Lansdowne Park location in the centre of the city is one of the strongest arguments to invest taxpayer money into the aging park.
- A redeveloped Lansdowne would be a "gathering place" for residents. "We want to transform Lansdowne Park into a pedestrian friendly village," said Roger Greenberg.
- Greenberg admitted the stadium is in a "serious state of decline," but the redevelopment would remedy that and celebrate the heritage of the 44-acre property along the Rideau Canal.
- Redevelopment would include the renovation of the Civic Centre, where the Ottawa 67's play. The outdoor stadium would seat 25,000 and could expand to 50,000 seats and be used to accommodate a professional soccer club.
- The group has already been awarded a conditional CFL franchise that the city could field by the 2011 season.
- The group also wants to promote and possibly expand the farmers' market and trade show space, as well as build retail space on the site.
- The group says their deal is the best one for taxpayers and would include a 30-year lease agreement with the city. At the end of the deal, the group would hand the stadium back to the city. It would also assume all risks including operating costs.
- The project calls on the city to leverage $97 million (in 2010 dollars) over the 30-year lease agreement to pay for the project, which only includes renovating Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre. It doesn't include any greening of the park, the proposed aquarium, soccer pitches or additional parking.
THE SENATORS SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT PITCH
- The nation's capital needs an open-air stadium -- just not downtown.
- Melnyk's plan calls for a 20,000-seat stadium that will deliver the same impact Scotiabank Place and its primary tenants, the Ottawa Senators, have delivered.
- The anchor tenant for the new stadium would be a Major League Soccer club. The stadium would also have the capacity to host major concerts and other events. "We have a world-class city and we need a world-class stadium," Cyril Leeder said during his presentation. "We are the only G8 city without an open-air stadium."
- The group believes there is a use for Lansdowne Park, but for greenspace only -- not a major sports facility.
- The group argued that a west-end stadium is the natural choice because of its accessibility to rapid transit.
- If there is any construction cost overrun, they would pick up the first $1.5 million. "We have a track record of delivering such a facility on time and under budget," said Leeder.
- The group said if they are awarded a Major League Soccer team, filling the stadium won't be a problem.
- According to the group, 75% of hockey fans who fill the Scotiabank Place are also soccer fans and disagreed with the city's evaluation that their proposal isn't as strong as the rival bidders.
- The project calls for $73.4 million in funding to be split between the federal and provincial governments, $26.7 million from the city and a $10 million investment from Senators Sports & Entertainment.