Life without Lansdowne would be CF-Hell

TIM BAINES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

Roger Greenberg admits he's not much of a football player.

Never stared down a brutish 300-lb. behemoth through the bars of a football helmet. Never been tackled face-first into the turf. Never stood in a huddle while a quarterback calmly and confidently called the next play.

"I'm a longtime follower, but I'm not a player. When John (Ruddy) came to me (about the bid), I told him I hadn't thrown a football in 30 years," said Greenberg, who's been transformed into a political quarterback and pivotal figure in an attempt to bring the CFL back to Ottawa, while revitalizing Lansdowne Park. "I went to football games as a kid and I understand what it means to be Canadian."

Greenberg has invested plenty of his time and money into being "a civic booster." He cares about the city and knows in his heart and in his wallet that Lansdowne Live is the right and only choice for a multi-purpose stadium.

"The cheapest route is to tear down the stadium, but you'll feel the effects of that in the future," said Greenberg. "The city will be that much the poorer for it.

"We'd probably be the only city in North America, with a population of more than a million, without a multi-purpose stadium."

There is reason to be skeptical about the Lansdowne Live bid, along with another bid by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to put a soccer stadium and MLS franchise in Kanata. With $100 million or so, give or take a few dollars, on the line, fiscal responsibility is a mandate for our city councillors. Some of these eggheads would have us open up a design competition for Lansdowne. Sure, why not delay it some more? Why do it today, when you can do it tomorrow, or the day after that, or the week after that, or the month after that, or the year after that? Well, you probably get the picture.

There has to be some immediacy. And it's not just because we've already secured a football franchise, which could kick off as early as 2011, with a Grey Cup promised here in 2014. Can council ignore that Grey Cups bring in upwards of $50 million in economic spinoffs? So it's Lansdowne vs. Kanata. Both sites could host world-class events ... huge rock concerts. One would host soccer, the other both soccer and fooball, ideally.

NOT FOOTBALL VS. SOCCER

"The debate should not be football vs. soccer," said Greenberg, who would also like to put a soccer franchise in Lansdowne, while Melnyk will not add a CFL team to his field. "Soccer is the world game ... football is the North American game. Both are terrific sports."

Greenberg has given assurances that his group's project is revenue-neutral. That's a win-win for everyone.

Greenberg admires Melynk. But his respect doesn't sway his belief that Lansdowne Live should get the green light.

"Mr. Melnyk has done great things for the city. He stepped up to buy the Senators when no one else would. The world juniors happened (in Ottawa) only because of him," said Greenberg. "He's put forward an idea and if council decides to go with his proposal, they'll live with the consequences.

"They don't have a team. We do. (The Kanata site) is not the right location for an open-air stadium. If you live well to the west of Bank St., it's OK. But if you live in Alta Vista or Cumberland, it's not so good. If you're going to contemplate Kanata, why not Barrhaven, or why not Orleans. There's no synergy from a taxpayer's perspective."

With no football background, Greenberg is facing second down and 23 councillors to go. Maybe a tougher task than facing a blitzing linebacker. But, with his business associates, he'll stand tall.

It's time for council to make a firm decision. It's time to top the head-scratching and rhetoric. And if they look at all the facts and all the figures, Lansdowne will come alive.

Ready. Set. Hut.


Videos

Photos