SBD/Issue 128/Franchises

Welcome Back: CFL Awards Franchise To Ottawa Ownership Group

The CFL yesterday awarded a conditional franchise to Ottawa. The partners in the ownership group are The Minto Group Chair & CEO Roger Greenberg, OHL Ottawa 67's Owner Jeff Hunt, Trinity Development Group President John Ruddy and Shenkman Group of Companies Chair William Shenkman (CFL). In Toronto, David Naylor reports the deal "hinges on the city rebuilding Frank Clair Stadium," the previous home of former CFL teams Rough Riders and Renegades, which last fall had its south side stands condemned. Though a "slew of owners have tried and failed over the past 25 years in Ottawa," CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon believes that this ownership group "offers a unique combination of local connections, business savvy and a proved history of sports operation." Cohon: "My job as commissioner is to find the right group and I think we've done that." The $7M paid franchise fee "represents one of the largest price tags yet for a CFL team." But with the league in the first year of a five-year, $80M TV deal with TSN, owners of the eight existing CFL teams "weren't willing to part with a share of league revenue without a financial commitment from Ottawa" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/26).

QUESTIONS REMAIN: Cohon: "Ottawa needs an adequate stadium. We hope it will bring a renaissance to Frank Clair Stadium." The ownership group said that Frank Clair Stadium was the "only place to have a professional football team play ball and wants to restore the stadium to its glory days" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/26). Shenkman said of the franchise, "We recognize the team will lose money for some time. We think it will be up to about [$1M] per year in the early stage. We don't expect to make money, but if we run it very well and it enhances life in Ottawa, then we will be happy" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/26). CFL B.C. Lions Owner David Braley: "I don't believe this team will be on the field until probably 2012. Maybe 2010 is an outside possibility, but it's very unlikely" (OTTAWA SUN, 3/26).

BRIGHT FUTURE? In Toronto, Stephen Brunt writes for Cohon, the announcement is a "chance to put a more progressive spin on his administration, which so far has been dominated by talk of the [Bills] incursion into Toronto, and the CFL's defensive posture." There is an "argument to be made [that] the league doesn't really need to go back into Ottawa at all," but the "uplifting aspect of the announcement itself, and especially the fact interested buyers came forward in the face of all the NFL rumblings, suggests some faith in Canadian football's future no matter what else transpires" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/26).

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