Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ottawa's stadium debate: Hunt takes it to a new low

"Given they're joined at the hip, the problem extends to the Civic Centre. The 67's are in serious jeopardy if the city makes the decision to build an outdoor stadium somewhere (other than Lansdowne Park)"

And with that flip and manipulative statement any sympathy this author had with the CFL bid in Ottawa went out the window. Jeff Hunt is going down the route that so many crass, mostly American, owners have done in the past. He wants his tax payer funded castle and if he doesn't get it he's going to take his toy and play with it somewhere else.

The 67's in jeopardy? Please. Where, exactly, is he going to move the team? Cornwall? North Bay? There is no place you could move Ottawa's junior hockey franchise that will provide Hunt with a better opportunity to be profitable. Ottawa, along with London and Kitchener, is the best market in the OHL. If Hunt actually moved the team from the capital he'd be, well, an idiot.

But, he knows damn well that playing the hockey card might just be enough to sway public opinion. Playing with the emotions of the diehard junior puckheads may be cynical and obscene, but it might just work.

Hunt built his reputation in Ottawa as the owner of the 67's. For him to even so much as suggested that there is a possibility that the team could move if he doesn't get his way with the CFL proposal is pretty damn low. I would have thought that he was better that that. Sadly, I guess I'm wrong.

Here's an idea. If Hunt wants to show that the CFL is a better bet than MLS in Ottawa then how about he do that? Demonstrate why Ottawa would benefit more from football than soccer and how the CFL bid is better for the people of the capital region.

Don't threaten to move their junior hockey team.


sager said...

It's a bit of fear-mongering. Odds are they still go to Lansdowne and figure out something to do with the arena, but Hunt's right, Scotiabank would be too large for the OHL.

The timing was good -- right before the 67's hold Canadian Forces Night.

Anonymous said...

Great move Jeff Hunt -- a direct threat to the community that's supporting your team -- real class move on your part

Anonymous said...

This is just a statement of facts.

If it's decided that Lansdowne be redeveloped without a stadium, keeping the Civic Centre seems doubtful. So where would the 67s play then? SBP? Crowds of 8,000 in a building that size get lost quick. I make the trek out to SBP to see the Sens once a year, but once a month to see the 67s like I do now, not likely.

It's an Ottawa thing, and trust me, Hunt's just stating the obvious. If that's "low", what's continually freeping online polls like Senators Sports and Entertainment have been doing recently?



Dennis Prouse said...

So, Eugene Melnyk can do or say whatever he likes in the PR war because he is promoting soccer, but Hunt isn't allowed to fight back? Please. I know the Eunabomber is used to having things his own way, but he is going to have to accept the fact that the Lansdowne Live group is organized, well financed, and ready, willing and able to fight back.

Call it fearmongering if you like, but Jeff Hunt is perfectly entitled to wonder what might happen to the Civic Centre if the Melnyk proposal wins the day. The Civic Centre is in bad need of a facelift. It has only been given the most minimal level of upkeep possible over the years, and it is starting to show. If the city goes whole hog in Kanata, there won't be any money left over for Lansdowne. At that point, it is not outside the realm of possibility that they decide to bulldozer both the stadium and the arena, spread some grass seed around the area, and tell Hunt to go work out a lease with Melnyk. The 67s wouldn't work in SBP, for all the reasons Hunt outlined this morning. If I'm Jeff Hunt, and I had spent a decade working to build up the 67s, I would be wondering too what might happen to my team, and whether or not anyone at City Hall cared.

This debate is about more than just a stadium. It is also about the future of the Civic Centre, an asset that deserves a lot more care and attention than it has received lately. Jeff Hunt shouldn't apologize for pointing that out, and he sure as hell shouldn't have to apologize for upsetting The Great Man's plans in Kanata.

Duane Rollins said...

Melnyk made a comment about a league being around in 25-years. He didn't say he was going to take that league down. He simply suggested that he would rather make a bet on soccer.

Hunt just threatened to move an institution if he didn't get his way. I'm not sure how you can compare that with what Melnyk said, or justify 67's fans as pawns in his personal agenda.

sager said...

Once the gloves are off, a little fear-mongering is OK. By the same token, if the Lansdowne Live crew has its act together and Melynk and SSE are winging it, Hunt should not have taken the bait.

He should have reaffirmed that they have the plan, that 80% want a stadium downtown and it would provide for two great amateur sports concerns in this city, the 67's in hockey and the Gee-Gees in football. (It's strange how he says nothing about the Gee-Gees when last fall, he was talking about how Lansdowne II would be a great place to hold a Vanier Cup.)

Ottawa without the 67's playing downtown is unimaginable. People have had their heads in the sands over the deteriorating building. Hunt had a point in sounding that alarm.

Dennis Prouse said...

The gloves are definitely off, that's for sure. I find myself wondering if Melnyk knows how much damage he is doing to his reputation here. As owner of the Senators, he relies on a very broad, "we all love our Sens" emotion in the city in order to sell tickets. Bit by bit, he is ticking off varying segments of the buying public, be it football fans, junior hockey fans, employees and contractors of Minto, etc.

Like all successful business people, no doubt Melnyk is intensely competitive, and wants to win, but there is a large risk here that he is going to lose, and have damaged his most valuable brand and asset at the same time. I'm a guy who used to defend Melnyk and his hockey club -- given the events of the last month or so, I am much less inclined to do so now.

Anonymous said...

Over-sensitive much, Duane?

I read that article with Mr. Hunt's quotes this morning and for you to interpret that as a threat baffles me. He merely wondered what the fate of the 67s might be without the Civic Center, which is structurally linked to Lansdowne.


sager said...

@ Dennis: Biovail didn't put much of a dent in Mr. Eugene's rep locally, nor did did telling people to go get a bomb and blow themselves up. Like Pete Toms said on a post yesterday, Melnyk "gets a pretty soft ride in the local press because of his association with the Sens. But he is a crook, see the penalties both he and Biovail have had to pay for stock fraud. My point is, don't believe anything he says, including that all this development will spring up around his soccer stadium."

Melnyk might be hurting himself. Selling tickets in sports is about hope, though, not the owner, unless he's the only killing hope.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

I have to agree with Dennis and Pete on this one. To me, it just looks like Hunt's returning fire; Melnyk's been hitting the downtown guys below the belt for a while (especially with the 25 years comment; I haven't heard Hunt say too much about MLS as a league, and it's just as easy to criticize as the CFL), so this is fair game in my mind. Melnyk shouldn't get a free pass for waltzing in at the 11th hour with a plan to try and sabotage the downtown stadium development. That's not to say that his plan isn't deserving of a fair hearing; it's just if he wants to call out the other bid, he should be prepared to take a few lumps as well.

(By the way, why is there so little attention paid to the BioVail matter? If I was in the shoes of the MLS execs, I'm not sure this is a guy I'd want as a new franchise owner...)

Anonymous said...

I'm in my mid-forties and play on a beer-league hockey team with guys the same age. Thirteen guys - two Leaf fans (I'm one of them), one Hab, one couldn't care less, nine Sens fans. Of the 13, eight went to at least one Renegade game in 2005 (I know - I took them with my extra season ticket). Seven of these guys had or have kids playing soccer. Two of them still coach their kids' soccer teams.

As you'd expect, we trade shots about our hockey allegiances in the dressing room. Last week, I get things started by saying "Hope all you Sens fans will like going out to Kanata to see soccer if your owner gets his billionaire way." These guys lost their freakin' marbles - not at what I said, but at what Melnyk is doing to the chances of getting the CFL back. There was a lot of "that &%$#@# isn't going to see another dime from me if he &%$#@#s up getting a football team back."

Not one of them would take MLS over CFL. And according to them, neither would their kids.

I was kind of pleasantly shocked. But two things stuck in my mind: 1)If Melnyk wins at the expense of the CFL, some Sens fans will vote with their feet and wallets and not support his hockey team & 2) Having a kid playing soccer doesn't necessarily make one more inclined to see it played live by someone other than said kid.

Mind you, this was only two games into the current five-game win streak.

Be careful what you wish for, Eugene...

Duane Rollins said...


It does not shock me at all that a bunch of hockey playing dads would react that way. I don't believe them for a second that they would pull their support (and even if they did someone would step up to fill in), but the bluster isn't surprising.

But your anecdote doesn't mean anymore than if I were to go to Ottawa next week during the Champions League and find a bunch of guys in a pub that are excited by MLS.

MLS would find its market and your hockey playing friends would still be dismissive of it even if it were selling out every week and was the talk of the town (although one or two of them would quietly buy season tickets when they realized that their kids were a little more into it than they thought).

sager said...

One of my friends suggested posing the question to anyone who is spitting mad about either league coming here: "What are you so afraid of?"

"Just remember different people have peculiar tastes."
-- Lou Reed

sager said...

@ Duane: To quote my hockey-playing dad when I was watching a Suns-Raptors game once: "What the hell is this?"

I'll spare myself the embarrassment of saying how old I was, but Steve Nash was playing for Phoenix by that point.

Anonymous said...

Jeff was simply saying that if there is no stadium at Lansdowne and the stadium is the roof on the Civic Centre, then the Civic Centre would likley be gone as well. He's not threatening to move, just stating that when the 67's home is razed they no longer have a home and thus the team is in jepordy. Most 67's fans come from the east and central parts of the City and would not likely drive to Kanata to watch them, particularly since prices would have to rise to pay the increased rent at the privately owned SBP.

Anonymous said...

The Sun article states:

"The Civic Centre's roof is the north stands of Frank Clair Stadium. It's pretty simple -- no Frank Clair Stadium, no Civic Centre. "

That is not Hunt speaking, That is the author of the article. You can not remove the North Side Stands without damaging, and probably destroying, the Civic Center. This is not a new concept, it was postulated some time ago by those of us who have looked at the issue.
It is one of the many variables our fair City has to consider when making a decision on refurbishing Lansdowne park. It is fair game to point that out.

I have not seen any threat by Hunt to move the 67's anywhere. It is clear that he wants to remain where he is, in The Civic Center. To do that, there has to be a Civic Center.

How is the "tax-payer funded castle" different from the tax-payer funded cattle that Melnyk wants. Both proposals call for a mix of public and private money . Local media has suggested that each proposal will require $80 million in public money. A tie in other words. I do not know if they are right , but that is what they are saying,
Duane.I think you are being too harsh on Hunt. What he said is quite appropriate and completely understandable.

The verbal battle between the opposing groups will get a lot hotter before it is over.


GoGades said...

I stand to be corrected, but from what I've seen, the only side that's been 'flying low' is the Melnyk gang with their CFL bashing. Even when replying, the CFL took the high road and pointed out their strength and refrained from bashing the MLS...

But sure, Duane, hop on the high horse. From getting the Red Patch Boys to stuff the (meaningless) ballot boxes to spouting lies against the CFL, inventing controversies fits right into the modus operandi.

Kind of tough to 'fix' an Ekos Research survey, tho, eh ? Bummer.

Anonymous said...

And to muddy things further:

Lansdowne, Kanata may not top stadium list
Carleton University, Bayview rumoured to be at top of city's list
By SHANE ROSS, Sun Media

They are the only two proposals submitted to the city, but Lansdowne Park and land in Kanata adjacent to Scotiabank Place may not even be the best sites for an outdoor stadium.

An evaluation of 23 sites, commissioned by the city last August and completed by the Corporate Research Group, will be formally tabled at a planning and environment committee meeting on Feb. 24.

“It will help provide context to the two stadium proposals,” said committee chairman Peter Hume. “Where should we invest in the stadium? Now we can look and say, ‘well, here’s where it’s ranked.’”

There are rumours that Bayview, near Lebreton Flats, and land near Carleton University rank high on the list.

Not all the sites are on city-owned land, which may pose other obstacles. Hume admitted the Carleton site is intriguing because it in on a major transit route, including light rail.

“It could be that this stimulates larger debate,” he said.

There would have to be a strong case for one of the other sites to replace the two official proposals, Hume said. Ottawa Sports & Entertainment, a group granted a conditional CFL franchise, wants to build the stadium at Lansdowne Park. Senators Sports & Entertainment wants to build it in Kanata, anchored by an MLS franchise. The Lansdowne site could also accommodate a pro soccer team. Both proposals include other commercial and residential development surrounding the sites.

A city staff report analysing the two proposals will be tabled at a special council meeting on March 25. After public consultation, it will be considered by council at its regular meeting on April 22.

Council could decide to accept the staff recommendation or, dare we say, reject both and begin soliciting bids for a stadium somewhere like, say, Carleton


Duane Rollins said...

My three-down football roots go way back, so please don't try and paint me as a football hater.

To me there is a difference between someone speculating that there is a better future in soccer than football and Hunt implying that if the stadium isn't built then the 67's will be in jeopardy. I think it's a bit naive to think that he isn't pulling that card to sway the opinions of junior hockey fans that don't care one way or another about the soccer vs. CFL thing.

The "keep it positive" argument goes both ways. If Hunt wanted to keep this positive he could have talked about the benefits of an improved Civic Centre. Instead he threw the word "jeopardy" out there. Tell me, what do you think he meant by it?

As far as freeping polls...I posted a single link to it. I can check for you to see how many followed it, but I'd be surprised if it were more than 10. Everyone freeps online polls. There was a link of the 13thman. So, let's do what we should always do with those things...ignore them.

I'm on record multiple times as saying that Lansdowne is the better option. I'm also on record as saying that it's Ottawa's choice to make. If Ottawa wants the CFL then I'll be happy for the city and will wish the team luck. As I said, I like the CFL. Quite a lot actually.

But, I'm going to continue to follow this story from a soccer angle because, quite frankly, I would suggest that most reporting on it is sympathetic to the other side.

Anonymous said...

Duane , there is a football side and a soccer side, so follow either.

For many Ottawans the issues are bigger and more complicated. Where will we put a stadium regardless of what sport uses it? How will we fund it?

And the elephant in the room, stadium or no stadium what will we do with Lansdowne Park including the Civic Center? Even if we put a stadium in Kanata or The Bayview Yards, a decaying LP and Civic Center still will have to be dealt with. What will we do with it? How will we fund what we do with it?
As an Ottawan and a property taxpayer, these are bigger issues to me than simply CFL vs MLS.

It is all part of the mix that will have to be decided upon,one of these years soon.


Anonymous said...

Even if the landsdown live bid is rejected i think the city will work something out with hunt.If thats a new arena or just fix up the civic centre.

Anonymous said...

Football Canada has come out in support of the Lansdowne Live group--not surprisingly.

Here is an excerpt of what Football Canada head Richard Munro said:

Participation is especially healthy in Ottawa, which boasts both the largest community amateur football association and largest touch football league in Canada, he said.

Add to that three junior teams — the Ottawa Sooners, Ottawa Junior Riders and Cumberland Panthers — the University of Ottawa Gee- Gees and minor football registration in excess of 10,000 and “you can see the sport has never been stronger here,” Munro said.

The Lansdowne Live project, if approved by city council, would not only allow the CFL to return to Ottawa, likely in 2011, but would also provide Football Canada with a venue to bring major national championships to Ottawa as well as offer practice facilities and the potential to become a “football centre of excellence,” he said. More than that, he said, the proposal, which also involves businessmen Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and William Shenkman, is a chance to re-energize the Glebe and Ottawa South neighbourhoods near Lansdowne with retail shops, a hotel, townhouses and an amphitheatre.

Dennis Prouse said...

Chris Stevenson has also noted in the Sun this morning that Team Melnyk has poked the local football community in the eye, thus bringing them into the fight with a vengeance.

It has been a huge strategic error by Melnyk to make this a one or the other question. He could have whispered sweet nothings about accomodating the CFL in his stadium, which would have really made this competition interesting. Too late for that now, though.

KML said...

@ anon

Sorry, "re-energize the Glebe and Ottawa South neighbourhoods"?

Seriously? I live in the Glebe, it isn't exactly in need of re-energizing, not compared to other spots in the city.

As I've posted here before, I'm actually in favour of a renewed Landsdowne (so long as the Sunday market stays and is allowed to grow), but I'm getting very tired of the specious arguments on all sides.

As for Hunt, those arguing that he's simply pointing out a possibility need to learn a few things about PR. He's doing a masterful job of lobbing vague threats while maintaining his community-friendly image.

sager said...

@ Anon.: The point was, if I understood it correctly, was that you shouldn't have to lob threats if you've got a solid case.

Here is the Stevenson column, for anyone interested.

Melnyk is taking some hits on the PR front, that's for sure ... Hunt has given good service to accommodating soccer. His claim today was that, "Soccer has always been a part of our thinking." Maybe so, but he didn't give it much of a mention in the op-ed he penned for the Citizen (Aug. 30, 2008) last summer.

Anyway, as Duane said, Champions League is Feb. 24, and one would hope the same Ottawa media who are presenting the CFL position will go seek out opinion for the soccer fans.

One last small point. When the soccer lobby points to their registration numbers, we all dismiss as, "Well, that doesn't mean they're going to watch the game." Football does it, and it's assumed that will translate into people watching the CFL.

Anyway, good job by Football Canada. The amateur football in Ottawa is very good; more people need to know about that.

Anonymous said...

Cities do pay for things they want for their citizens: Parks, opera houses and horse tracks (too bad Montreal got those money losers and not a ballpark that was still drawing more citizens than those white elephants). All of them "lose money", but in a capitalist system, cities DO compete for teams, it's part of civic pride and identity. I don't have to like it, but in the sense that if they don't spend our money on things like stadiums and parks, they will on a hundred other more vain projects and temporary festivals. Even worse, they'll spend it on the ever-more-bloated bureaucracies of politics, healthcare and education.

It only makes sense to re-do Lansdowne. The citizens want it, the city is guaranteed a team (and Grey Cup), and that's where people want to go to watch soccer anyway (if Melnyk thinks he can make money at it, I don't think he can, but then it's not about that is it?). Three teams (67's), central location, that's where to do it. Why differentiate between the "greed" of owners who want stadiums built and the "greed" of the socialist "bread not circus" crowd? Somewhere in the middle, a little of each makes sense...

Anonymous said...

O'Brien Wants Both Soccer And
Football In One Ottawa Facility

CFRA News Staff

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One member of the Lansdowne Live proposal says soccer and football could coexist in the nation’s capital and even share facilities.

When asked about his personal preference of the 2 proposals before city council, Mayor Larry O'Brien says he would like to have them both, and in the same facility.

Roger Greenberg, with the Lansdowne Park redevelopment team, says with their proposal, the mayor could get his wish.

Greenberg says he’s been told that soccer would have to have priority for example with game dates, and the C.F.L has no problem with that.

A new report ranking the best sites in the city for an outdoor stadium put Lansdowne Park at number 6, followed by Scotiabank Place, the proposal from Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk.

Members of the Lansdowne Live proposal still say they're number 1 when it comes to the overall best interests of the city.

Some of the elements of the Lansdowne Live proposal include an updated stadium, an aquarium, and a retail and restaurant complex.

After public consultations, city council will make a final decision on April 22nd.

Anonymous said...

Core of stadium site debate is vision for city

Consultant says the most successful new sports venues are being built downtown


North America's most successful new sports facilities are being built in the downtown core, says Mark Rosentraub, who has been studying the link between sports and urban development for more than 30 years.

Rosentraub's insights were part of the extensive "needs assessment analysis" produced by Corporate Research Group Ltd. to help the city determine the best location for a 20,000-seat outdoor stadium.

The top six of 23 potential sites evaluated by CRG are located in the urban centre, including No. 6 Lansdowne Park, one of two official proposals submitted to the city.

The other proposal is in Kanata, near Scotiabank Place, and is ranked seventh.

Rosentraub highlighted the successes of San Diego, Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Columbus, which have all recently built arenas or stadiums as a part of a downtown revitalization.

He is also advising Edmonton, roughly the same size as Ottawa, to build its new NHL arena downtown.


"What has been learned from the experiences of numerous cities across more than four decades of the building of new sports facilities," Rosentraub wrote, "is that stand-alone arenas surrounded by acres of open parking lots tend to become lost opportunities for development and the building of a city's image."

Even Coun. Clive Doucet agrees with that. Although he opposes the proposed Lansdowne redevelopment, which is located in his ward, he believes a new stadium should be built downtown, at Bayview Rd. or neighbouring Lebreton Flats, two of the top three sites ranked by the city consultants.

"There's only one place that's ever really made sense for a stadium in Ottawa, and that's Bayview/Lebreton Flats," said Doucet.

"I can't understand why we ever allowed Scotiabank Place to be built out there (in Kanata). The city didn't have the nerve to insist that it be built (at Bayview Rd.). It's centred to the entire region, not just east-west, but also north-south -- Gatineau -- it's also the end route of what will be the north-south light rail line.

"Every city in the world that has a successful, large stadium, it's at the hub of the city," Doucet said. "With 30,000 people at Lebreton Flats for Blues Festival, do we have any problem with traffic? We didn't even have the electric rail system and we still don't have a problem with traffic."


So what's stopping the city from building the stadium at Bayview or Lebreton Flats?

"The city has to exercise some vision and creative leadership and say 'no, this is where we're going to put it, and if we partner with the private sector, the private sector will partner with us on our terms,'" Doucet said.

"With Lansdowne Live, it's asking the city to partner, but on their terms, and when you're asked to partner on somebody else's terms, they're rarely favourable."

Coun. Peter Hume, chairman of the city's planning committee, had preliminary discussions with the Lansdowne and Scotiabank groups on Thursday to see if they would consider shifting their proposals to a downtown site such as Bayview.

He said he will recommend the committee make a formal request to the groups, but will do everything possible not to delay the process any longer. On April 22, council is scheduled to make a decision on which direction it plans to take.