As council prepares to vote on a plan to modify the city’s agreement with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, OSEG’s owners say they’re committed to keeping the CFL’s Redblacks and OHL’s 67’s at Lansdowne Park “for many decades.”
OSEG managing partner and executive chairman Roger Greenberg made the pledge in a letter to Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Mathieu Fleury, the city’s sports commissioner, on Monday. It came four days after the mayor and Fleury called on OSEG to publicly guarantee that it would continue operating the franchises at Lansdowne for an additional decade beyond the eight-year commitment in the original agreement, which is set to expire in 2022.
Last month, the city’s finance and economic development committee approved a staff report calling for changes to OSEG’s 30-year partnership with the city.
The organization wants to extend the agreement by a decade to give it more time to make its money back and is seeking approval to tap into a $4.7-million capital reserve fund to cover expenses. A working group made up of city and OSEG officials “to study opportunities to enhance and broaden Lansdowne’s appeal” would also be established.
“I’m happy to confirm that if the measures recommended by FEDCO to ensure OSEG’s survival and protect the City from risk are approved by City Council, we will extend our commitment that both teams will continue operations for an additional 10 years,” Greenberg’s letter said. “It is also our intention for the teams to continue playing on for many decades beyond that.”
'A labour of love'
Greenberg, one of driving forces behind the revitalization of Lansdowne that included resurrecting CFL football in Ottawa in 2014, said the project “continues to be a labour of love for me and my OSEG partners.”
OSEG chief executive Mark Goudie told OBJ last month that Lansdowne’s sports and retail operations have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out the 2020 CFL season. He said Greenberg and fellow partners William Shenkman, John Pugh and John Ruddy are willing to pump an extra $40 million into the site over the next five years to cover additional expected losses.
On Monday, Greenberg said the cancellation of the CFL season and the 67’s post-season this year was a “nightmare for the tens of thousands of devoted fans that share our love for the teams.”
But he added: “Thankfully, with promising vaccines on the horizon, it appears we’ll soon be able to gather again and get back to the business of challenging for the Grey Cup and the Memorial Cup, and putting smiles on the faces of our fans and other visitors.”
In response, Watson said in a social media post that he was “pleased with OSEG’s commitment to keep Redblacks and Ottawa 67’s playing in the nation’s capital for at least another 10 years.”
Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Wednesday.