CFL Emphasizing Future In Ottawa

- August 21st, 2012

Cannon Design's concept for a refurbished Frank Clair Stadium.

The Canadian Football League is pumped to have Ottawa back in the league.

And if all goes according to plan, we’ll see a Grey Cup game at Frank Clair Stadium within the next six years.

In one of my fishing expeditions under municipal access to information laws, I asked for recent correspondence between the CFL and the mayor’s office. The only item that came out of it was a letter from CFL commissioner Mark Cohon to Mayor Jim Watson earlier this year.

(There was also some email chatter between George Young in the mayor’s office and solicitor and clerk Rick O’Connor about sharing the letter with council.)

The letter is dated Feb. 13, 2012, three days before the finance and economic development committee was asked to approve the latest update in the Lansdowne redevelopment.

There’s certainly a theme here underscored with forward-looking expressions. Perhaps this is a recognition that a CFL team folded twice in Ottawa.

“On behalf of our board of governors, our teams, and our fans across Canada and especially in your fair city, I am writing to tell you how truly excited we are about the future we share in Ottawa,” Cohon writes.

“We are absolutely committed to our ownership group in Ottawa, to bringing a CFL team there as soon as an appropriate stadium facility is in place, and, of course, to bringing the Grey Cup, and thousands of visitors and millions of dollars in economic activity, to the city. If the construction project proceeds smoothly, and our Ottawa team takes the field for the 2014 season, Ottawa would have the opportunity to host the Grey Cup no later than 2018.”

Cohon makes an interesting note at this point, telling Watson he is “purposely” choosing to emphasize the future in the letter, recognizing that having pro football back in Ottawa would inspire nostalgia.

“That’s tremendous,” Cohon says. “But we are moving forward because we are confident in the future of the city of Ottawa, and the future of the CFL, and we firmly believe that we will be stronger, together.”

Cohon lauds the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group in the letter and the partners’ “passion and perseverance.”

“Their design for the newly refurbished stadium at Lansdowne Park, combined with the surrounding amenities and its setting alongside the Rideau Canal, will make the live football experience in Ottawa truly second to none.”

Cohon goes on to say how hot the CFL is right now. Attendance averages 29,000 fans for regular season games. TV ratings are high. Cities are upgrading stadiums or building new ones.

It’s the 100th Grey Cup in 2012 and the celebrations leading up the game “will definitely include a special stop in Ottawa,” Cohon writes.

“Today’s CFL is dynamic and growing. Today’s Ottawa is dynamic and growing. So while we embrace the history we share, and fully appreciate that our Ottawa roots are deep, this is really about moving forward together, because we are even stronger, together.”

That’s the end of the letter.

Here at City Hall, we’ll be watching for that fall update on the Lansdowne deal with OSEG, particularly if the costs and timelines have changed.

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Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.

Categories: Lansdowne

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