In these difficult economic times, even the cost of a fresh, honest opinion ain't what it used to be.
For Jeff Hunt's two cents yesterday, I paid dearly.
The 6:15 a.m. alarm. The -29 C and the car that never could get warm. The $9 parking. The $31.50 for a Chamber of Commerce breakfast featuring guest speaker Mark Cohon, the commissioner of the CFL.
In return, most of what I was told at the Sheraton I've been told before. Cohon essentially made the same presentation at Algonquin College's 2008 Sports Business Symposium last March. Oh, the numbers were updated. Last season, the CFL had its best attendance figures since 1983. Television ratings were up 14%. The Grey Cup raked in $70 million for the city of Montreal ... We get the point, already. Things are looking up in the CFL.
To be clear, I think Cohon is probably a very good commish. And I believe the local group of businessmen (Hunt, John Ruddy, William Shenkman and Roger Greenberg) to which he has granted a conditional franchise is indeed a "Dream Team." You want a better ownership consortium? Not going to happen. A land redevelopment proposal that makes more sense? Good luck with that.
But right now, all any of us really to need to know is that the Hunt group has continued to work diligently with city staff on refining its Lansdowne Live! proposal, and that on or about Feb. 17 it will go to city council expecting a vote on whether it will receive a letter of intent to proceed or be presented "other alternatives."
That, and what if any possibility exists for extending the third-week-in-March deadline between the CFL and the would-be owners, if need be.
"If there's any discussion (on the deadline), it would have to go back to the board of governors, the board of governors would have to vote on that," said Cohon. "But we would like to see progress. It's important we see progress with the city.
"I'm not here in any way to pressure the city," he added. "I'm here to say it's time. If you look at the economy, this is a good time for us to move forward on an initiative like this. If we want to look at infrastructure opportunities and get shovels in the ground, this is the time where cities and the province and the federal government are looking to make infrastructure projects work. And the fans want it. I think that's important."
Yeah, don't forget the fans. We working-class stiffs who are dealing with these difficult economic times.
Enter Hunt, and his fresh, honest opinion.
"Believe it or not, I think the state of the economy makes a better environment for these kinds of things," said the 67's owner. "Look at all the terrible things that are happening in Ottawa right now, and what a great, welcomed distraction the world juniors were. For those 12-14 days, we almost forgot about all of our troubles, and just had a great time. That's the power of sports.
"And don't forget, depending on what numbers you want to look at, we're talking a $200-$300-million project. A substantial portion of which is private. How often have you heard talk of infrastructure and helping to kind of get the economy going again? These types of major projects are extremely important in tough economic times."
Hunt calls the Feb. 17 city council meeting "D-Day."
"I think we're coming to a head," he said. "I think it's time for the city to make a high-level decision ... Should we have an open-air world-class stadium at Lansdowne Park? And should the city continue to pursue an agreement, or a relationship, with our group? Those are some high-level decisions they're going to have to make in February."