Ottawa MLS bid COO Cyril Leeder slipped the word into the conversation subtly, but it was there. “That would seem unlikely going into an initial proposal...” he said when asked if a future Ottawa MLS team could share a stadium with a future CFL team.
He preformed his understated magic in a wide ranging interview on It’s Called Football last Saturday. Have a listen in its full here (the interview starts at the 17 minute mark – the audio is low off the top, but it gets fixed).
The thing about “initially” is that it isn’t “never.” Leeder didn’t say that there would never be a shared stadium in Ottawa.
This battle isn’t so much about a stadium, or sport even. At its root it’s about power and money. Eugene Melnyk wants to control the stadium in Ottawa and he’s enlisted MLS to help him do it. The league has shown time and time again that it will let teams share stadiums if the ownership is strong. Don Garber likes Melnyk (one source told me that the two hit it off like long lost fraternity brothers) and wants him in the league. The Ottawa bid has always been about 2013. Garber is making enough noise about requiring a soccer specific stadium to help his new buddy win the battle locally, but if it doesn’t work out and the two groups are forced to work together to build a football squared field of dreams...MLS will still be interested in 2013.
Ottawa deserves both teams. And it’s not likely to build both stadiums. If I were in Ottawa I’d be a little leery of going the MLS route when I knew that the CFL was coming regardless. But, without getting into a peeing contest about which league is more viable moving forward, there is little doubt that soccer is a growing sport that often attracts a different audience than Canadian football. In an ideal world fans of both sports could be served.
So why not make it happen? If you build it....