Good news for Ottawa CFL bid!

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

OTTAWA — The return of CFL football to Ottawa took another small step forward with city council's decision Wednesday to proceed with the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, the former home of the Rough Riders and Renegades.

The agreement includes a 60-day window for negotiations with a group of local developers, known as Lansdowne Live. The negotiations are designed to produce a tentative agreement between the developers and the city on what will be done at the park, including a refurbishment of Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre, and how the project will be financed.

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon was pleased by the decision.

"Today represents an important step forward for the Canadian Football League's successful return to Ottawa,'' Cohon said in a statement. "On behalf of our league, I want to thank Ottawa City Council for its ongoing consideration of the proposal brought forward by our local ownership group, and the many supporters of that proposal, including CFL fans and alumni who spoke to council.

"We remain excited about bringing the CFL back to the national capital, along with the Grey Cup, and the tremendous economic activity it delivers for a city and province.''

City council's decision, made by a vote of 14 to nine Wednesday, came after two attempts to scuttle the approach were voted down by city council, and it could spell the end for Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk's plan for a soccer-specific stadium near Scotiabank Place in West Ottawa.

The developers, Roger Greenberg of Minto, John Ruddy of Trinity, and Bill Shenkman of the Shenkman Corp., want the city to fix the crumbling Frank Clair Stadium for a conditional CFL franchise they have won. They estimate this will cost $97 million. The city estimates $125 million. They also want the city to build a roughly $25-million parking garage for the site, and for the city pay for any community spaces to be included in the park.

They also propose a mixed-use development at Lansdowne Park that would include retail and entertainment space, a hotel, office space, and some residential building at a cost of $120 million to them.

A city report on the two plans said that going with either proposal could cost taxpayers big — $150 million over 30 years, including borrowing costs for just a stadium, and up to $300 million over the same period if extras aimed at public use are added.

The report said with repairs at Lansdowne, the Civic Centre and stadium can last another 28 years with the proposal upgrades. A new rink-stadium complex would cost about $185 million and last 70 years, the report said.