Globe and Mail:
[url=http://www.globesports.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070924.wsptnaylor24/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/home]http://www.globesports.com/servlet/stor ... tball/home[/url]
OTTAWA — It appears a big chunk of Frank Clair Stadium will be demolished this fall.
But whether the tearing down of the lower south-side stands is good or bad news for the potential return of CFL football isn't clear.
City staff delivered a report yesterday recommending that the lower tier of the south-side stands be taken down because of structural concerns discovered in early September. The decision whether or how to replace the stands will be part of a larger city project regarding the redevelopment of the stadium and surrounding area known as Lansdowne Park, located south of downtown.
"The principle we've worked upon is to preserve Frank Clair Stadium," said Peter Hume, the chairman of the city's planning and development committee. "What form that would take will follow the function [the stadium] would take in the community."
One option would seem to be removing the remaining the upper south-side stands as well, which is a separate structure, leaving the stadium with a north grandstand that holds 14,542, down from the stadium's current capacity of 28,826.
But Hume said he believes there is considerable merit to rebuilding the lower south-side stands so Ottawa can continue to play host to such events as the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
It would also open the door for the potential return of the CFL.
"It's no good to have a facility that no one cares to come to play football or soccer at because it only has the north-side stands," Hume said. "Maybe there's different configurations we need to look at that would make the stadium viable for those things.
"What's the best configuration if we want get football back? Before you replace it, you should have a sense of what makes good sense for the facility."
Hume said the estimated cost of replacing the lower south-side stands is $5-million, plus $1.2-million for demolition. The $5-million price tag is the same as the estimate for repairing the existing structure.
As to what design a new lower south-side stands might encompass, Hume said the city is open to all proposals, including those specific to football.
"If we have a reasonable and viable proposal on the table for CFL football, that gives renewed purpose to the stadium portion of the facility," he said.
As of now, there is nothing tangible to suggest the CFL is on its way back to Ottawa.
However, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said yesterday he is following the debate surrounding Frank Clair Stadium and has had discussions with Mayor Larry O'Brien and a potential CFL investment group.
"We are in discussion with a local group who are extremely interested — a significant local group," Cohon said. "We don't have a timetable, but the situation with the stadium has obviously expedited the discussions."
The base of the south-side stands at Frank Clair Stadium was built in 1961, 14 years before the upper section was added. In recent years, the stadium's poor condition has often been cited by fans, including those who attended the World Cup soccer games this past summer.
Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt, whose OHL team plays in the Civic Centre, which is attached to Frank Clair Stadium's north side, has in the past been contacted by several groups interested in returning CFL football to Ottawa.
He did not wish to speculate on what potential redevelopment of the stadium might mean to the chances of CFL football returning.
"The last thing any group involved in football negotiations would want is to have it public," Hunt said. "There have been so many false starts and letdowns and disappointments that no group would want anything to go public before there's something concrete in place."