Ottawa used to be a serious football town. But Frank Clair Stadium, with rickety bench seating and cracks in its concrete, hasn’t seen a professional game since the Ottawa Renegades played their last in 2006. It was the second Canadian Football League franchise that tried — and failed — to survive in Bytown.
But that losing record doesn’t discourage Jeff Hunt, who is leading a group of Ottawa businessmen eager to bring the CFL back to the nation’s capital.
Hunt could be the right guy to do it. He led his carpet-cleaning firm, Canway, to the PROFIT 100 seven times in the 1990s. And since buying junior hockey’s Ottawa 67s in 1998, attendance has quintupled and revenue has soared.
“There are about 10 reasons why football hasn’t been working in this town,” says Hunt. “Five of them have to do with that stadium.” Hunt wants to take over Lansdowne Park, home of Frank Clair Stadium, and operate football, hockey and sports entertainment out of it. As for the stadium itself, he’d add luxury suites and state-of-the-art facilities, and piggyback on his hockey team’s resources and infrastructure to reduce operating costs.
But Hunt won’t skimp on marketing, on which the 67s’ previous owner had been spending just $25,000 a year. “When I bought the team, I was spending that every week,” says Hunt. His goal with the 67s was to provide an NHL-calibre experience, from the game and the music to the concessions and promotions. Clearly, it worked. “Every minute the players aren’t on the ice is carefully scripted and choreographed with video clips, music and fun promotion,” says Hunt. “We would do the same thing with the CFL.”