(Not to mention that empty ballpark.)
The mud fight between USL team owners and the league's new corporate overlord will chart the course which determines whether pro soccer comes to Ottawa.
There is more than a cute little juxtaposition involved with Jeff Hunt and the Lansdowne Live gang in Ottawa applying for a franchise in the United Soccer Leagues First Division on the day after several of the league's owners all but declared civil war on USL-1's corporate ownership (and on the day before city council holds a huge meeting to discuss Lansdowne Live's proposal for the derelict stadium).
You could read into that the Ottawa is trying to get into a league several current owners are trying to get out of, but that would just be negative and bitchy. Also worth noting high up is that deep-down, the gut feeling is Hunt wants a USL team in Ottawa and it's not a smoke screen.
First, the mud fight: Several owners, including those of the Montreal and Vancouver teams, have drawn a line in the stand about their desire for "a team-owner controlled league" after Nike sold its controlling stake last week. To put it mildly, it's an interesting variable to throw into the equation. Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo is also apparently interested in getting the Trois-Rivières Attak into USL-1 if his team leaves the league for MLS.
It wouldn't necessarily hurt the Hunt bid, which is in partnership with John Pugh's grass-roots Ottawa Fury. It will affect it if it turns out the map of pro soccer in "northern North America" is about to get redrawn. It also seemed to be an underplayed element in the initial wave of hometown coverage from Ottawa Business Journal, CBC.ca and Sun Media.
This is not a commentary on the Ottawa bid or Lansdowne Live's motives. It is definitely politic to create the impression with an ever-skeptical public and city council that the stadium is going to be used for more than a CFL team and retail. Hunt's release mentions having the CFL, pro soccer and two university football teams all sharing the stadium, which sounds very promising, but also very busy.
It is a positive to have tapped into Pugh's sweat equity and expertise (although it could have been done 10 months ago). At least Hunt, et al., got the right idea eventually. Your guess is as good as any why this apparently never occurred, far as was reported, to Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
Meantime, please keep in mind Ottawa still has another stadium dilemma with the ballpark on Coventry Rd., which is going unused. One does idly wonder if Hunt is playing coy and plotting perhaps putting a soccer team at that stadium. That way, they have a hand in control of two venues and keep someone else from developing it as a concert venue.
Triple-A baseball stadiums in Portland, Oregon and San Juan, Puerto Rico, have proven adequate for pro soccer (imagine the first-base line as one sideline, with the third-baseline as one end line), with temporary bleachers out in deep left field). That is a valuable asset the city of Ottawa is not using. The Coventry Rd. stadium could also be used by the W-League Fury and the various youth teams. Far-fetched, I know. Maybe the other site ends up as condos.
Baseball is still in the picture, of course, but the goal is to get a stable tenant using that stadium. If you're a taxpayer, the sport can be named later.
Meantime, good on Hunt and Pugh et al. One would hope the USL's issues don't undermine their goal of attracting a pro soccer team, in any reputable league.
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