'We just made it to the post-season'

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

Alive and kicking.

The group trying to bring the CFL back to Ottawa didn't win the title, but developer Roger Greenberg and 67's owner Jeff Hunt were wearing smiles after city council passed a motion to negotiate with Lansdowne Live officials.

Nothing is written in stone and a deal has to be reached in the next 60 days, but the CFL is a step closer to moving back into Frank Clair Stadium for the 2011 season. Of course, Hunt was trying to put a sports perspective on what took place yesterday at city hall.

"The best analogy I can make is: We just made it to the post-season, but we haven't won the Grey Cup quite yet," said Hunt. "You've got to get to the post-season before you can start competing for a championship. It's an important milestone.

"We still have a ways to go and we have rounds to win. This has been two years in the making. There have been milestones along the way -- getting the franchise and launching Lansdowne Live was a milestone. We realize we still have a lot of work to do. We're very satisfied with the vote of confidence we received from the city."

You will have to forgive Hunt if he sounds cautious. After watching the antics that took place during the seven-hour council meeting, you would be as well. Originally, Lansdowne Live was supposed to get 16 votes. A couple of councillors flip-flopped and the group won 14-9.

The victory came at the peril of a bid by Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk, who wanted to put a 20,000-seat soccer stadium in Kanata. A motion by council to give Melnyk's group the land and $17 million was put on hold until Greenberg has had a chance to negotiate.

'DISAPPOINTMENT'

Melnyk wasn't happy in a statement released last night.

"I wish to express my profound disappointment that council clearly doesn't share my stadium vision nor see the opportunity within it," said Melnyk. "In life and in business, one encounters rare and infrequent carpe diem moments opportunities to 'seize the day.' Today was a carpe diem moment for council. Not only did they choose not to seize the day, but they also chose not to seize the future."

Melnyk has put his bid for an MLS expansion franchise on hold for the time being. He wasn't willing to concede his group's bid deserved the No. 2 billing it received from council.

"We have a good proposal and I still have a strong belief that a soccer specific stadium is right for the city," said Senators Sports and Entertainment COO Cyril Leeder.

But the football community was breathing a sigh of relief. Nobody wanted to see this bid -- which includes the 2014 Grey Cup in Ottawa -- die on the table. Negotiations are going to be difficult and this could all still fall apart.

Naturally, nobody wanted to be premature in their celebration.

"They got past the first hurdle. That's a far greater situation than you could have expected two weeks ago," said former Riders, defensive lineman/Team 1200 host Glenn Kulka. "A lot of people didn't even think (the Lansdowne proposal) would get to this point. It's a great thing.

"The fact is now both sides are going to truly understand what they want to do in negotiations, what their priorities are, what they're willing to do and not willing to do. Obviously, I feel the development of Lansdowne Park is important for this city to get done."

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon was also pleased with the news.

"(Yesterday) represents an important step forward for the Canadian Football League's successful return to Ottawa," said Cohon in a statement. "

"We remain excited about bringing the CFL back to the national capital, along with the Grey Cup, and the tremendous economic activity it delivers for a city and province."

Hunt said the group is willing to be flexible in negotiations. He added he's confident that when Lansdowne opens in 2011, Capital Coun. Clive Doucet, a noisy opponent, will be on hand.

"If there's a ribbon cutting at Lansdowne Live, I'd love to see him there," said Hunt with a sly smile.


Videos

Photos