Lonie cheers from sidelines

Lonie Glieberman is cheering hard for the Jeff Hunt-fronted consortium of developers to get the job...

Lonie Glieberman is cheering hard for the Jeff Hunt-fronted consortium of developers to get the job done in Ottawa. (Sun Media/Errol McGihon)

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Three times a CFL franchise owner, he now relies on the Internet for his fix of the league he still loves, by both reading the daily reports on the newspaper websites and following play-by-play broadcasts on his laptop.

His life was so much better when the CBC had the TV rights. Alas, he doesn't get TSN in Detroit or Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the two places he calls home.

"What I'd like to see is the CFL on an American cable network like Versus," Lonie Glieberman said yesterday. "So I could start watching the games again."

Either vehemently disagree with or understand and appreciate the methods and intentions of he and his dad Bernie when they ran the Rough Riders (1991-93), the Shreveport Pirates (1994-95) and the Renegades (2005), but there's never been any debating Lonie Glieberman's passion for the CFL. (How many Canadians you figure press their ear against a computer to listen to games?)

Those who know him also know how badly Lonie wanted to make it work in the nation's capital. As much as he has enjoyed running the U.P.'s Mount Bohemia extreme ski resort for the past decade, you get the feeling he'd trade it all in for yet a another shot at returning Ottawa's football team to its glory days.

Since there won't be a third coming, Glieberman is cheering hard for the Jeff Hunt-fronted consortium of developers Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and Bill Shenkman to get the job done.

"I think this group is perfect," said Lonie. "These guys are going to succeed ... if the city is fair with them."

That is the question now, isn't it? The Hunt Quartet has another 47 days or so to negotiate a deal with the landowners for Lansdowne Park, whether it's a lease or purchase agreement. Ottawa will have a CFL team on the field, along with a jewel of a downtown stadium, if the city is fair.

Will that be the case? Who really knows?

Glieberman read with bemusement when council members balked at the group's desires in the first place.

"All the talk about green space," he said. "I don't recall seeing any green space when I was there. It's downtown. All I saw was concrete."

Glieberman has always liked to bring up the concessions U.S. cities make for their pro teams, and again yesterday he pointed out that the city of Tampa built a multimillion-dollar practice facility for the Buccaneers. He also doesn't get why Capital Ward councillor Clive Doucet was opposed to an addition that would so greatly benefit the businesses in his district.

"Here's one of the ironies I see," said Glieberman. "I remember the councillor in Kanata being very much in favour when the Senators wanted to build (Scotiabank Place) out there, as she should have been. But (Doucet) is one of the biggest opponents to building a football stadium? That's very sad.

"What major city in the world would be the biggest opponent to a pro sports team? It's almost unheard of. It's not like the stadium was never there before.

"You've got to look at the big picture of what a pro team means to a city. It seems to be there's much more reluctance to having a football team than there would be in a normal city."

While other teams in the league were leasing their stadiums for $1 a year, Glieberman remembers paying the city of Ottawa $65,000 a game when he owned the Renegades. He paid $20,000, plus incidentals that brought rent to about $45,000 per game in the early '90s when he ran the Riders. In Shreveport, his lease was $3,000 a game.

He also remembers Frank Clair Stadium falling apart when he owned the Riders --17 years ago.

LYNX STADIUM 'FOOLISH'

"There were chips of paint coming off the seats and falling in people's Coke," said Glieberman, who also lost his bid for concessions to that made by Ogden Entertainment Corp. "The city didn't have the money to spruce up the stadium, but then they built a ballpark for the Ottawa Lynx. That decision kind of looks foolish now."

A new stadium will make a "huge difference" in the team's fortunes, says Glieberman.

"To the people who are hardcore, really into football, there will be no difference," he said. "But for the people on the fence, it'll be a big difference to them. (Average) attendance will go from being in the upper teens (in thousands), low 20s-to-mid 20s, high 20s. I'd be very confident (the Hunt group) will succeed.

"If we had stayed seven years, if we had stayed the course, we would have succeeded," added Glieberman. "If you stay, and build consistency, you will succeed. You've got to give it seven or eight years, go through the ups and downs, and continue to build. The Senators did that.

"I think this is the perfect group to do that for football in Ottawa."

Glieberman is not blaming the city or its councillors for his failures here. Not completely, anyway.

"They are not the reason we didn't succeed," he said. "But they didn't help the situation, either."

Now, it's time to help the situation. Ottawa owes it to its football fans.


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