'No' vote would be CF-hell

TIM BAINES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

The return of the CFL to Ottawa seems so near, yet so far away.

In the hands of Ottawa's decision-makers, the Lansdowne Live project could be given an endorsement sometime tomorrow, or it could crash and burn -- which would be yet another mind-boggling mistake by the people we voted into political power.

It seems like it should be such a slam dunk. A proposal by a partnership of four prominent and reputable Ottawa businessmen -- Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy, William Shenkman and Jeff Hunt -- Lansdowne Live would transform a decaying stadium and arena into a multi-use facility, something the city could be proud of. A CFL franchise has been promised and you can bet a pro soccer team would be here quickly as well. It won't just be a stadium surrounded by concrete. With green space and a few retail stores, it'll be an experience. Not just an event, but an experience.

The cost to taxpayers? Yes, surely there is a kicker here. We'll all feel the pinch, right? Revenue-neutral is the key word. It'll cost you nothing.

But there are those who are crying foul. Sole sourcing, they call it. They're demanding an open design competition. Roll the dice. It's likely, there will be some viable designs. But here's the gamble, a huge one. Can another plan be revenue-neutral? Who will pick up the tab? And does it add as much to the city as Lansdowne Live?

IT'S A CIRCUS

In recent months, this has turned into a circus -- to the point where public forums have been filled with an embarrassment of misinformation. For instance, there's a gross exaggeration of the size of the retail space and the fear thrown into Glebites that they will suddenly be overrun by bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"I find it curious the mistakes make our plan look more unfavourable," said Greenberg in a recent editorial board meeting with the Sun.

Front and centre is Clive Doucet. Ah yes, circus ringmaster Clive.

His claims that the CFL is a "fading sport" aren't backed up by facts.

The CFL's TV ratings on TSN were up more than 51% this year.

Participation in minor football in the Ottawa area keeps hitting new highs.

A refurbished stadium would also benefit the Ottawa Gee-Gees and would step up the overdue efforts to bring football back to Carleton.

It's interesting to note that Doucet has yet to meet with the Lansdowne Live folks. You'd think a politician would want to get all the facts, then make an informed decision.

Greenberg knows there are those who are opposed to an open-air stadium.

"I don't agree with that view, but I understand it," said Greenberg. "They don't want football, they don't want soccer, they don't want junior hockey."

STADIUM IS NO SECRET

Most of those people are Glebe residents, who live close to Lansdowne. The thing is when they bought their properties, Lansdowne was very much alive. It's certainly not a secret that there's a stadium in their midst. I just don't get why they wouldn't want the embarrassment it's become to be spruced up.

The Lansdowne Live folks say they will listen to what council has to say. Maybe there can be some amendments to the plan. There is flexibility.

This isn't about football. It isn't about sports. It's about doing what's right.

If council says no to Lansdowne live, it shouldn't be about sole-sourcing, it should be about soul-searching -- with yet another colossal screw-up added to its legacy.

If you're in favour of Lansdowne Live and it gets shot down, take note of the councillors who say no. You'll get a chance to return the favour in the next election.

TIM.BAINES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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