Mark Cohon is the commissioner of the Canadian Football League. Follow Mark on Twitter @CanadianCommish.
OTTAWA -- Led by committed owners and governors and fuelled by strong attendance and television ratings, today’s Canadian Football League (CFL) is right for Ottawa, Commissioner Mark Cohon told city council here today.
“The fact is the CFL is as strong as it has ever been, right now,” Cohon said.
Urging councilors to approve a stadium proposal that would bring CFL football to the nation’s capital, Cohon pointed out:
• CFL attendance topped two million people last year, and averaged more than 28,000 fans per regular season game – matching the league’s high water mark in the early eighties.
• Television ratings in 2008 were up 7 per cent among adults, and 31 per cent among young adults, with an average of 393,000 Canadians watching each regular season game, and total viewership topping almost 30 million.
• The league continues its strong relationship with both local and national sponsors, such as Rona, Scotiabank and Tim Horton’s.
• The 2008 Grey Cup game in Montreal followed a week of sold out events, was played in front of 66,803 fans, the second largest live audience in the game’s century-old history, and was watched on television by 3.65 million Canadians on TSN and RDS, bringing Canadians together in both official languages.
Defying critics who claim the CFL can’t return successfully here, Cohon held up Montreal as an example of a city that once lost its team, but now boasts a flag ship CFL franchise.
“What has made the difference in Montreal? Ownership. And a fabulous game day experience in a centrally located, updated, open air stadium,” he said.
“I know these are the things that will make the difference in Ottawa, too. I said from day one: we would only come back here with the right owners in place. And I am enormously proud to stand here today with Roger Greenberg, Jeff Hunt, John Ruddy, and William Shenkman,” he said.
“This is an ownership dream team, with a track record of investment in Ottawa, a track record of community service to Ottawa, and a long term commitment to our league, that are all second to none.”
Last year, the CFL granted Greenberg, Hunt, Ruddy and Shenkman a CFL franchise for Ottawa on the condition that a suitable stadium be available for the team to play in.
The group is proposing Lansdowne Live, a bold and progressive redevelopment of Lansdowne Park near downtown Ottawa, including a refurbished Frank Clair Stadium.
The project would pave the way for Ottawa to host the Grey Cup on a regular basis, generating tens of millions of dollars in economic activity for the city, Cohon said.
“I read a lot about what a stadium could cost Ottawa. What about what it will do for Ottawa?” he said.
“There is nothing I want to do more than bring a fun, successful, revenue-generating Grey Cup back to this city.”
After the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto, a study by the Canadian Sports Tourism Alliance estimated the event generated more than $80 million worth of economic activity throughout Ontario, with $52.9 million occurring in Toronto.
“My message to you today is delivered on behalf of our Board of Governors, our member clubs, and our millions of fans across Canada,” Cohon said.
“And it’s this: today’s Canadian Football League is right for Ottawa.”