ASSUMING THAT THESE REPORTS ARE ACCURATE, it looks like back room dealing has pretty much killed the return of the CFL to Ottawa. Melnyk won't agree to this, and even if he did, the CFL wouldn't have him as an owner after what he said about the CFL in the media. Even if they did, the stadium would likely be conditional on both a CFL franchise AND an MLS franchise, and MLS is not coming to Ottawa...ever.
Lansdowne Live goes ahead, minus the CFL team. Who knows, maybe this is what the Hunt group wanted all along.
Oh well. So long, Ottawa... Go Moncton!
New plan combines soccer, football[url=http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/Denley+plan+combines+soccer+football/1497137/story.html]http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/Den ... story.html[/url]
By Randall Denley, The Ottawa Citizen
April 15, 2009 7:04 AM
[i]A plan that could give the city a revitalized Lansdowne Park as well as two professional sports teams playing in a new stadium in Kanata is gaining ground as the solution to the Lansdowne/pro sports dilemma.
Mayor Larry O'Brien Tuesday publicly endorsed the idea of redeveloping Lansdowne Park without professional sports and he has been working hard behind the scenes to get the stadium part nailed down, too.
O'Brien has been negotiating over the last several days with the group of local developers who want football at Lansdowne, as well as Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk's group, which has proposed professional soccer in Kanata.
Those familiar with the discussions say that the Lansdowne group has shown significant flexibility, but the success of the stadium plan will come down to Melnyk's willingness to do the same.
First proposed in this column last Thursday, the plan calls for demolition of the Civic Centre and Frank Clair Stadium and their replacement with a new Junior A rink and consumer show space at Lansdowne. Combined with limited commercial development on Bank Street, that would give the city a reinvigorated Lansdowne at little or no additional cost to the taxpayer. O'Brien wants to keep costs even lower by renovating the Civic Centre rather than replacing it.
The second part of the plan calls for a $100-million stadium in Kanata for pro soccer and CFL football, paid for with federal, provincial, city and private money.
Melnyk spokesman Cyril Leeder said last week that the biggest impediment to the plan could be the idea of two pro sports teams having to share the revenues from a new stadium.
The Lansdowne group, headed by Minto's Roger Greenberg, is said to have found a solution to that problem. The group's goal is to bring the Canadian Football League to Ottawa, and it is willing to let Melnyk take over its conditional franchise if that's what is required to get the deal done.
At $7 million, the CFL franchise is cheap by sports millionaire standards.
This is a tremendous amount of flexibility from a group whose whole plan centred on rebuilding Frank Clair Stadium as the home of its CFL team and running the team as part of a new sports company that would include Lansdowne partner Jeff Hunt's Ottawa 67's.
After extensive discussions over the Easter long weekend, the Lansdowne group has reluctantly concluded that rebuilding Lansdowne without a football stadium would be acceptable, but the group is still determined to bring football back to Ottawa.
The plan that's being discussed would seem to give Melnyk everything he has asked for, and more. It would deliver a stadium in Kanata adjacent to his Scotiabank Place rink, creating a home for the soccer franchise he hopes to get. It would also act as a catalyst for the development of other land Melnyk owns around the new stadium. The only hitch is taking on the CFL franchise. Melnyk is a soccer enthusiast who has shown limited interest in football.
Leeder says that there will be further internal discussions of the new proposal and "we're putting a lot of effort into it, but we're not at the point where we're ready to talk about it." Discussions between city politicians and the Melnyk group were also scheduled for Tuesday.
The Lansdowne/pro sports matter is up against a tight deadline. Proponents are scheduled to make presentations to a city committee next Monday, then full council will decide what to do next at its meeting two days later. The pressure is on to come up with an alternative that councillors will back because support for the original Lansdowne plan and for Melnyk's soccer plan are both weak.
Melnyk has always portrayed himself as a great booster of Ottawa and pro sports here. This is his big chance to step up. If he can find a way to make both pro sports work in a single stadium, he will have played a key role in creating the very best deal for Ottawa and its sports fans.
If he won't co-operate, the city is still likely to approve the idea of a new Civic Centre and consumer show space at Lansdowne, but the opportunity for pro sports franchises will be lost.
The people behind the Lansdowne group -- Greenberg, Hunt, John Ruddy and Bill Shenkman -- have shown that they are Ottawa-first types who are prepared to dramatically alter their proposal to deliver the greatest public good.
Melnyk has said that, other than winning a Stanley Cup, there is nothing he wants more than to bring pro soccer to Ottawa.
He also portrays himself as a creative thinker and a risk-taker. If that's so, it's time to seize the moment.
Contact Randall Denley at 613-596-3756 or by e-mail, email@example.com
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen[/i]
Lansdowne doesn’t need a stadium, mayor says
O’Brien suggests updating Civic Centre, dealing with football/soccer issue separately
By Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen
April 15, 2009 7:04 AM
[i]OTTAWA — The city’s top priority is to make better use of Lansdowne Park, Mayor Larry O’Brien told business leaders Tuesday — even if that means giving up on an outdoor sports stadium there.
He told the Citizen in an interview later that Lansdowne can be rebuilt and greened and still preserve a junior hockey venue in the Civic Centre, without saddling taxpayers with millions of dollars in extra costs.
A proposal by a group of developers and Ottawa 67’s owner Jeff Hunt to rebuild the city-owned Lansdowne Park, with a Frank Clair Stadium renovated for CFL football at its core, has run into skepticism from some city councillors, who are concerned that fixing up the stadium would be too expensive.
“Lansdowne Park is broken. It is an eyesore in the city and it is not functional as a football stadium or any other stadium. Our No. 1 priority is clearly to find a way to fix Lansdowne Park so it is no longer an eyesore and becomes a permanent park in the city,? O’Brien told the Citizen.
“Without going as far as putting a stadium at Lansdowne Park, we could very definitely rejuvenate it. We could likely deal with the issue of CFL football or soccer separately. We could talk about where a stadium could go — there are two different visions of that.?
At a breakfast gathering with business leaders at Ottawa City Hall, O’Brien said the city could revitalize Lansdowne by converting the $4 million a year he says the city spends on maintenance into a $50-million bond that would cover rebuilding costs right away.
“The $4 million will cover a 30-year payback of a $50-million bond. This means the City of Ottawa will be in a position to put $50 million into Lansdowne almost immediately,? he said. “That $4 million we are currently spending, and have budgeted for many years into the future, could be translated into enough money to fix Lansdowne.?
The mayor said $20 million to $25 million of the new pot of money would be used to fix up the Civic Centre arena, with the same amount going to pay for a new underground parking garage. The city could then enter into an agreement with the private sector — most likely the developers’ group, headed by Hunt and Minto boss Roger Greenberg — for a “self-financing? commercial development along the Bank Street strip, and possibly on Holmwood Avenue. The rest of Lansdowne would be turned into a major city park.
Some councillors have expressed concern about spending millions of dollars to rebuild Lansdowne for professional football, but O’Brien’s comments offer the first solid indication that the dream of football at Lansdowne may be doomed. The idea would be sweet music to the ears of Glebe residents, particularly Councillor Clive Doucet, who has long wanted a civic park at the site.
With city council’s planning committee due to hear public delegations on the subject on April 20 and full city council set to discuss the issue two days later, O’Brien made it clear that the final decision on what direction to take would be made by council. But with the city in dire financial straits, he said the overriding goal would be to refurbish Lansdowne into a city park without saddling taxpayers with millions of dollars in unaffordable debt.
"I am not saying that’s what we are going do in the end, but I am saying that option is open to us as a city without having any negative impact on the taxpayer,? he said.
The stadium saga began with two private-sector proposals — the one that would see a professional football stadium and junior hockey arena at Lansdowne Park, and one for a soccer stadium for a Major League Soccer team in Kanata, near Scotiabank Place.
The Greenberg-Hunt group, which also includes developers Bill Shenkman and John Ruddy, secured a Canadian Football League franchise on the condition that they find a suitable stadium for the team; Frank Clair Stadium has been home to two previous CFL franchises. To complement the stadium and help defray costs, the group wants to build a mixed-use development that includes a hotel, office tower, shops and restaurants, theatres and homes. The city would pay for the stadium and the group would lease it for about 30 years.
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk then put in a rival proposal for a new soccer stadium near the Senators’ hockey arena to be the home of a Major League Soccer team he hopes to bring to the city. His plan also includes a similar mixed-use development in western Kanata.
But things went awry about a week ago when a staff report on the two proposals said that going with either one would cost taxpayers $150 million over 30 years just for the stadium.
“When you are looking at where you want to spend money, the first priority one must have is to make sure the assets you have are properly looked after to provide maximum value to citizens,? O’Brien said. “The status quo is broken. We need to put that right.?
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen[/i]