OTTAWA - Jeff Hunt, part of the Ottawa CFL team’s ownership group, recently sat down with QMI Agency Editorial Board for a meeting and an update on where things are headed.
Where’s the start date at now?
“Until we break ground, we do not have absolute certainty of this project. Our degree of confidence that this is going to prevail increases every day. I’ve awarded tenders for construction and commitments are made, and when you break ground then you have certainty, absolute certainty on a start date, which we still believe, very firmly, is 2014. It’s one of the few things over the year that hasn’t changed. That date has survived another year. We are on track, as we expected we would be at this point, for 2014.”
How have the legal challenges slowed you down?
The good news is, all of this time has also been an asset. I think we’re going to have a better end product because of the time that we’ve had to get it right. I don’t think there’s been a stadium in the history of time built that somebody didn’t say, ‘I wish we had done this, I wish we had done that.’ I just hope the ‘wish we had done thats’ will be minimal and not a significant issue.
When will you develop the name?
“As far as names go, I think the community is in a “call me when it’s over mode.” I think we’ve got issue fatigue. People are really sick of hearing about legal wrangling and some of the political wranglings and really just want to get on with it.”
How will you come up with the name?
“We’re certainly going to get a lot of fan engagement, and there may be a ‘name the team’ contest, but then we would work with an agency to take that brand and make a jersey, a logo, an image. It’s virtually for certain we’ll retain the colours, the red black and white, as will the soccer team. Those are Ottawa colours. They can’t take our colours away. And I think it still gives you that kind of link to the past
When will you get a scout?
“We may hire a scout next year, that would go and scout American college red-shirt Canadians. The red-shirt Canadians are kids a year before their draft that are from Canada but playing for U.S. schools.”
What can you tell us about the GM position?
“There’s a lot of interest in the job in Ottawa. It’s a general manager’s dream to come in, especially with the expansion draft that we have. It’s a GM dream to come in — he’s not inheriting anybody’s bad draft picks, or bad trades, or bad signings or bad free agents. He gets to build it completely from scratch — the exact kind of team he wants.”
How will you select the right GM?
“Somebody said to me, ‘Well it’s going to be a gut feel.’ Bull. It’s not going to be a gut feel. I’m going to be able to prove it mathematically that this guy knows what he’s doing: That he wins, he’s had success in the league, and has a proven track record. So it won’t be about gut feel.”
How do salaries play into developing the football team?
“Coaching is important in every sport, but no sport is it more important than in football, in my mind. Therefore, we have a salary cap with players so everybody’s working with the same budget. But not everybody works with the same budget when it comes to a general manager and coaching. I think we are going to be a very aggressive team in that regard. We’re not going to not get our guy because of money.”
What will the fan experience be like?
“The audio-visual experience will be so, so dramatically different than what fans were used to at Lansdowne (Park). The scoreboard is going to be world-class, it’s going to be massive. The audio equipment will be all brand new.”
How will soccer be rolled out?
“You want your first game in anything to be a bit of a spectacle and I think to bring in an elite European team would be a great first step to introduce professional soccer to Ottawa in a significant way. I really try to keep that on the front burner.”
Are you frustrated with the legal appeal process?
“Every meaningful project goes through this kind of thing. There’s always a lunatic fringe that will try to stop everything. The Senators went through it with Scotiabank (Place)... Thankfully, these people never get their way and that’s why we have great cities all over the world.”
How do you feel about your critics?
“They don’t represent the citizens. They represent their own personal interests and a very small group of people. The population has spoken overwhelmingly, twice, with both votes at council. Yes, councillors voted for it because they felt it was a good thing to do, but they also voted for it because the knew the majority of constituents were in favour of it.”
How do you feel about the Friends of Lansdowne?
“I like to say, you’re friends of Lansdowne, but which Lansdowne are you friends with? The one that exists today? Or the one that we’re proposing? Or is there another version that we don’t know about? Because I don’t hear the alternative.”
How’s the building’s progress going?
“The football stadium is a pile of rubble. It looks like a war zone now. But it’s progress. You’ve got to tear it down before we can rebuild it.”
Overall, how’s the process going?
“I think we’re getting there, and I think this is going to happen. I believe this is going to happen and I think it’ll be a destination in Ottawa. I think it’ll be the ‘it’ place for sports and entertainment and to be a part of that is very exciting.”
— Compiled by Danielle Bell