First it was the end of the legal obstacles to redeveloping Lansdowne Park, then it was the announcement of the new team’s name.
© Cole Burston
Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group president Jeff Hunt.
Slowly but surely, the Canadian Football League is getting closer to a return to Ottawa.
On Friday morning, Jeff Hunt, one of the partners in the new team, christened the Ottawa REDBLACKS, announced another milestone on the road to kickoff next summer: 11,000 people have now signed up to be season ticket holders.
It’s a pretty significant number, given how much work Mr. Hunt and the other partners in the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group have ahead of them.
“We have a really big challenge in trying to change some of the perceptions of the way Ottawa views CFL football and views Lansdowne,” he said, speaking to members of the business community.
Along the way, more and more of the pieces seem to be falling into place.
In January of this year, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a local resident who wanted the project quashed. That brought to an end a series of legal challenges to the project, clearing the way for construction of the new stadium and retail space to start in earnest.
Then in July OSEG announced the new team’s name, the REDBLACKS. That gives fans of the team’s previous incarnations – the Rough Riders and the Renegades, both of which folded less than a decade apart – something to cheer for as they await the return of CFL football to the city.
Meanwhile, the team is already considering some of the finer details of bringing the CFL back to Ottawa. Mr. Hunt said he’s started to think about what the team’s mascot should be (he’s leaning towards a lumberjack based on Ottawa Valley folk legend Big Joe Mufferaw).
He’s also thought a little bit about local blackouts for the TV broadcasts of home games and decided he’s against them.
“I would never want to stop people from watching our product,” he said.Mr. Hunt said he hopes the redeveloped Lansdowne, once it opens next year, will be a home for major events.
He’s optimistic about bringing a Grey Cup to Ottawa to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Canada celebrations in 2017 and would also like to bring the Brier, the Canadian curling championship, to the Civic Centre.
Mr. Hunt spoke at Eggs n’ Icons, a breakfast series co-hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.
See also: Selling the CFL to Ottawa.