Hunt group spends $1 million

(Photo courtesy of Lansdowne Live!)

(Photo courtesy of Lansdowne Live!)

DON BRENNAN, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:51 AM ET

Small potatoes are what is occasionally being sold at the nearby Farmers’ Market as well as what’s currently going on inside the Civic Centre these days.

Meanwhile, preparations are still busily being made for the creation of the big spread after Aug. 26.

That is “D-Day” for 67’s owner Jeff Hunt and his group of local developers, the day city council votes whether to accept their final proposal on Lansdowne Live! and give the capital of the country both a downtown world-class entertainment facility and the CFL team it deserves.

A vote that really should be a slam-dunk yes.

“A black and white day,” Hunt called it yesterday. “We’re either going or we’re dead.”

Hunt was showing reporters the relatively minor renovations being done in his team’s home. Starting next season, the 67’s will be like the rest of the OHL in that both team benches will be on the same side of the rink. The penalty box is now along the north boards while coach Chris Byrne’s squad will sit where the sin bin used to be.

To make room for the owner’s new box, the press box is being moved from centre ice to a couple of luxury suites in the west end. Just in case you’re looking to wave hello.

The price of such work, of course, is nothing compared to the $97 million the city is being asked to fork out for the new Lansdowne Park, which the Hunt group is proposing to run for the next 30 years.

The Hunt, Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and Bill Shenkman consortium has already shelled out almost $1 million to the Toronto architect firm — Stadium Consultants International Inc. — that has diligently been working on plans to turn Frank Clair Stadium into a reasonable facsimile of Toronto’s BMO Field, home of Toronto FC of the MLS.

Under the proposal, the new stadium will seat 24,000 fans.

“Twenty-four thousand is the sweet spot,” said Hunt. “We’ve talked to other teams and they’ve all been consistent ... 24,000 creates intimacy and demand.”

The rest of the south side stands will be demolished and reconstructed with 10,000 seats, while an “enormous facelift” will also be done on the north side.

About $15 million-$18 million will be poured into the Civic Centre, which has a ceiling that’s been falling down piece by piece for years.

The idea of an aquarium has been canned, unfortunately, and Hunt says it will be up to his group to have a vision of what’s to become of the Aberdeen Pavilion by D-Day.

“The budget is the budget,” said Hunt. “Ninety-seven million is the cap. We’re working to create as nice a building as we can with that money.”

To those who assume that during the summer months one could roll a bowling ball through city hall without it passing a politician, well, Hunt says that’s not necessarily accurate.

“The commitment from city staff is significant,” he said. “They’ve been working hard every day trying to make this work. That’s been positive.

“For us, it’s been really drilling down the stadium design and cost. The architects from Toronto come in once or twice a week. You don’t really appreciate how much detail goes into a project of this magnitude.”

So no, just because you haven’t heard anything lately about the bid to bring a football team back to Ottawa doesn’t mean it’s not as intense as ever.

“We’re working every day,” said Hunt. “We’re down at city hall every day. There’s been no let up. The level of activity has been significant. But we still have a lot of work to do to make it a reality.”

Is he optimistic the plan will still come together?

“Optimistic? I would say it’s more like I’m hopeful something will happen,” said Hunt.

So are the rest of us who are starving for a CFL team and a respectable sports facility in the heart of the city.


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