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The Lansdowne four
Three years ago, John Ruddy and Jeff Hunt approached Minto CEO Roger Greenberg to see if he'd be interested in "a little bit of money, a little bit of time and a lot of fun."
Ruddy, president of Trinity Development Group, and Hunt, owner of the Ottawa 67's, asked Greenberg if he'd like to join an effort to bring CFL football back to Ottawa.
Ruddy had already travelled to Monaco to recruit another deep pocketed developer, Bill Shenkman, the third generation owner of Shenkman Corporation. Though born and raised in Ottawa, Shenkman has lived in the Mediterranean principality for 14 years.
Over dinner, Ruddy made a similar pitch.
"How would you like to have some fun?" he asked. Shenkman bit. Bringing football back to Ottawa, he told Ruddy, would be a lot of fun indeed.
The four accomplished businessmen the "dream team," Shenkman calls them formed the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) and set about making it happen.
"This evolved kind of innocently from something very small into something much larger," Greenberg says.
Their simple idea has morphed into a $250 million partnership between OSEG and the City of Ottawa to restore decrepit Frank Clair Stadium and revitalize Lansdowne Park.
The plan has fuelled anger in the Glebe, alarm among Bank Street merchants and rancorous debate at council, which will vote next month on whether to proceed with it. That doesn't include the hundreds of hours the partners and their staffs have put into the project.
"It's certainly a lot more work, a lot more time and a lot more money than I had anticipated," Greenberg confesses.
Yet, says Shenkman, Ruddy's promise has been fulfilled. "We're actually having, in a strange, coach outlet sale online sick way, a lot of fun."
The way Greenberg tells it, OSEG learned that its modest plan to lease Frank Clair Stadium from the city was a non starter after meeting with Mayor Larry O'Brien and city manager Kent Kirkpatrick in the fall of 2007.
"Their comeback to us was, 'Guys, listen. We're not going to spend upwards of $100 million in taxpayers' money to fix up the stadium so shop coach outlet you can coach factory outlet online authentic play 10 games of football a year,'" Greenberg recounts.
If the businessmen wanted to propose something more comprehensive, O'Brien and Kirkpatrick told them, the city would listen.
Unbeknownst to his partners, Ruddy was already hatching bigger plans. "My view was unless there was a holistic approach to Lansdowne, I wasn't really interested."
Still, love of sports is a key driver of the project. Each of the partners, in his own way, is a jock.
Hunt bought the 67's in 1998, when the franchise was floundering, and used his marketing acumen to turn it into one of the most successful junior hockey franchises in the country.
Growing up, he played hockey, not football. But after moving to Ottawa in 1984, he bought Rough Riders' season's tickets every year until the team folded coach outlet discount codes in 1996.
"A Thursday night, sitting outside watching CFL football was as much fun as I could have," he says. "I was heartbroken when the Rough Riders left."
Shenkman owns a piece of the Millwall Lions, a second division soccer team in southeast London, England. He was one of the first to invest in the Ottawa Senators when they were granted an NHL franchise.
"We never expected to make any money from the investment," he says. "We didn't. We lost it all."
Shenkman's godfather was Sam Berger, who owned the Rough Riders and later the Montreal Alouettes. "He would take us to all the games here. Saturday afternoon, for us as kids, was the highlight of our lives."
Growing coach outlet store locator up, Ruddy counted Rough Rider receiver Bobby Simpson and legendary coach Frank Clair among his neighbours. Through those associations, he got to know the team's players.
He also played cornerback on the St. Patrick's High School and Carleton University football teams, competing regularly at Frank Clair Stadium.
Like Shenkman, Greenberg lost money investing in the Senators before Eugene Melnyk bought the team out of bankruptcy in 2003.
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