Soccer franchise in the works: Greenberg.
Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder, right, presents Minto CEO Roger Greenberg with a plaque for Minto’s $10,000 contributions towards the Walter Baker Sports Centre celebrations following his presentation to the Barrhaven Business Improvement Area on Nov. 30. Greenberg said his Ottawa Sport and Entertainment Group is likely to bring a conditional North American Soccer League Div. 2 franchise by the end of the year for the 2013 season.
In the wake of the site plan for Lansdowne Park being approved by city council on
Nov. 22, Roger Greenberg already has his sights set squarely on the future.
The Minto Group CEO was the keynote speaker
at the Barrhaven Business Improvement Area’s (BIA) annual general meeting on
Nov. 30 and said his ownership group is close to bringing a soccer team to the
With the backing of Ottawa Fury owner John
Pugh, Greenberg said the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) is
expecting to lock up a conditional North American Soccer League Div. 2
franchise by the end of the year for the 2013 season.
The team would play out of Lansdowne Park.
Greenberg added that his OSEG group –
consisting of Jeff Hunt, Bill Shenkman, John Ruddy, the City of Ottawa, and now Pugh – is
looking into the possibility of buying the Rough Riders name for the city’s Canadian
Football League (CFL) franchise, which is tentatively scheduled to begin play
in 2013 as well.
The group will also likely purchase the Ottawa 67’s from Hunt, to
add to their sports portfolio. The 67’s play at the Civic Centre, which sits adjacent
to Frank Clair Stadium at Lansdowne
As for location itself, OSEG wants to “turn
Lansdowne on its axis” by embracing the Rideau Canal
and by creating a green, sustainable outdoor stadium for football and soccer,
He added that plans for a south-end wooden
veil to shield the canal from steel pillars will make the refurbished building
it an “iconic stadium.”
There will be 14,000 seats along the north
side of the stadium and 10,000 at the south, when construction finishes by its
expected June 2013 date.
“This will be so far superior to anything
we have now,” Greenberg told those in attendance. “I think it will be a huge
economic boon to anyone in the region.”
Because of Ottawa’s recent unsuccessful past supporting
CFL teams – the Rough Riders folded in 1996 and the Renegades operated from
2001 and 2006 – Greenberg said OSEG wants to make sure Lansdowne is ready to go
before a team begins playing.
He added the first game would be delayed
until 2014 if need be.
“We can’t open with a half-finished
stadium,” Greenberg said.
PARK SPACE IN WORKS
In addition to the stadium, Greenberg
discussed further plans such as housing possibilities that would frame the
north of the 31,500-square metre site, a 3,600-square metre undisclosed food
store, the potential of bring the Ottawa Art Gallery to Lansdowne and
preserving the Horticultural Building – just like the Aberdeen Pavilion.
He also said Sylvia Holden
Park would be removed to make room for the townhouses,
but that a much larger park space is in the works just east of the stadium.
BIA board member and Barrhaven Coun. Jan
Harder said while the site plan was approved by council is “not contestable,”
there are 14 cases before the Ontario Municipal Board that will come before the
courts in April.
“Unless we are surprised by the Ontario
Municipal Board, we’re comfortable that everything is going full speed ahead,”
“The site plan is not appealable, but it’s
not finished either. There are other pieces that we’re still working on. It
certainly takes us well on the way.”
There is a four-person panel, which
includes new Capital Coun. David Chernushenko and Alta Vista Coun. Peter Hume, put
in charge of overseeing some of Lansdowne’s small issues. The bigger ones will
be taking to the planning committee.
Greenberg said in talking with some of the incoming
city councillors and new Mayor Jim Watson, he feels support for the project has
The previous council voted in favour of the
site plan by a 16-6 margin on Nov. 22. Greenberg said he felt there would now be
between 20 and 22 members of council in support of it.
“This is the city building experience,”
Harder said. “We haven’t seen that since before amalgamation. It speaks to Ottawa growing in its
While both Harder and Greenberg conceded
that traffic will be an issue, Harder suggested the O-Train and park-and-rides
would be suitable alternatives.
However Greenberg said if people come
earlier and others stay later for the entire package, the problem will be
lessened. And because of OSEG’s vision for Lansdowne, the goal is for people to
want to stay.
Greenberg added that there has been a lot
of interest from business owners as well as even a movie cinema to have a spot
“We really want to change the experience
for people coming to hockey, football, or soccer,” he said. “We believe the
experience of people there will be much better.”