Lansdowne Live! Wants Professional Soccer in Proposed Stadium[url=http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/bulldog/archive/2009/08/21/lansdowne-live-wants-professional-soccer-in-proposed-stadium.aspx]http://communities.canada.com/ottawacit ... adium.aspx[/url]
By Kenneth Gray
[i]The Lansdowne Live! group "absolutely" wants to bring professional soccer to its new stadium and has talked to the United Soccer Leagues about the feasibility of putting a franchise in Ottawa.
Roger Greenberg, the chief executive officer of Minto Group and one of four principals behind the bid for a stadium and development at Lansdowne Park in the Glebe, said the stadium is being designed so that it will be fan friendly for Canadian professional football and soccer. One of the reasons the Lansdowne Live! officials are talking to the USL is to discover what its requirements are for field design, Greenberg said.
Lansdowne Live! has secured a conditional Canadian Football League franchise and recently invited Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to put a Major League Soccer franchise at the stadium. Melnyk rejected the offer because it did not fit into his business plans. Greenberg said he thought a MLS franchise was too expensive for his operation. His preference was for another party to secure a soccer team for the new stadium but he did not rule out his group owning a club.
Greenberg, one of Ottawa's most successful businessmen, was reluctant to detail the extent of his interest in the USL. He said his group "had been talking to everybody" about uses for the stadium.
Lansdowne Live! would be eager to hold an outdoor Ottawa Senators game in the new park, he said, and the venue would be designed to hold concerts as well. The stadium would also be expandable so that it could hold large events such as a Grey Cup game. The new park is being designed by the same people who built BMO Field, whose primary tenant is Major League Soccer's Toronto FC.
"There are lots and lots of soccer fans" in Ottawa, Greenberg said.
Lansdowne Live! was approached by Canadian track and field officials, Greenberg said, to make the proposed stadium adaptable as a national training centre. The group rejected the proposal because a track would put football and soccer spectators too far away from the field.
Clouding the USL issue is the fact that the league is on the selling block at present, Greenberg said.
The USL is generally perceived to be a step down from Major League Soccer for which Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk had tried to obtain a franchise for a now-defunct outdoor stadium plan near Scotiabank Place. Nevertheless, some USL teams have defeated MSL clubs in interleague play.[/i]
Negotiations between Lansdowne Live! - whose ownership consists of three leading area developers and Jeff Hunt, the owner of the Ottawa 67's junior hockey team - are nearing a conclusion. Consultant Graham Bird has been hired by the city to craft an agreement between the private consortium and the municipality. The Lansdowne deal would need to go through public consultations. Approval for that will be sought at a city council meeting on Sept. 2.
The Lansdowne proposal has divided the community with some people supporting getting something done at the rundown city-owned park while others are concerned about sole-sourcing the project or they favour another use for the site. Many Glebe residents are concerned about traffic in the area from the proposed stadium.
The USL has franchises in Portland, Carolina, Charleston, Montreal, Vancouver, Miami, Austin, Cleveland, Puerto Rico, Rochester and Minnesota.