Soccer in Ottawa kicks around 2011 start

SHANE ROSS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Professional soccer could still come to Ottawa as early as 2011, although "2012 or 2013 would be more practical" should city council choose to build an open-air stadium in Kanata, said Cyril Leeder, COO of Senators Sports & Entertainment.

Council is expected to decide on April 22 whether it will select the SSE proposal or one from the Lansdowne Live group, which proposes renovating Frank Clair Stadium for a CFL franchise. It may also choose neither.

Major League Soccer announced yesterday that Vancouver has been granted a franchise for 2011, bringing the number of teams to 17.

One other franchise for 2011 is expected to be named soon. The league may be waiting for council's decision on a stadium before it announces the second franchise. MLS commissioner Don Garber told Sun Media in February that "it would be inconceivable" that Ottawa would not receive an MLS franchise if it secured a 20,000-seat outdoor stadium.

Yesterday, he cast doubt on the city receiving the next franchise since council had yet to decide if it would spend money on a soccer facility or a stadium for a new CFL team.

"We don't yet have a positive vote in Ottawa so it's less likely Ottawa would be that 18th team," Garber told reporters. "It doesn't mean they can't be either the 19th or the 20th."

Yesterday, SS&E and Lansdowne Live submitted their final proposals to the city.

After a thorough review, city staff will present them to council on April 20, when the public can also have its say before a decision is made two days later.

The entry of Vancouver into the MLS is good news for Ottawa, said SS&E owner Eugene Melnyk, who has $50 million for the expansion team burning a hole in his pocket.

EXPANSION FOCUS

"I know first-hand how committed commissioner Garber is to expanding Major League Soccer's footprint in North America, including Canada," he said. "The league's focus on expansion will remain strong and, as such, I remain as committed as ever to bringing Major League Soccer to the nation's capital. At the moment, our efforts are solely focused on supporting the City of Ottawa with its current review of our stadium proposal.

"The city's review and its conclusions are paramount in taking our expansion discussions with commissioner Garber and MLS to the next level."

SHANE.ROSS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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