Sure, the FIFA World Cup has been really exciting. But in North America “football” still means moving a pointy pigskin up and down the field, with lots of padding and bruising tackles. The NFL stands on top of that heap, but there’s a Canadian Football League too. And Ottawa is rejoining that action.
Meet the Ottawa Redblacks - the capital region’s newest pro team. Their first game took place Thursday in Winnipeg against the Blue Bombers. The (sold-out) home opener against the Toronto Argonauts is July 18 in a spanking new TD Place Stadium at the redeveloped Lansdowne Park.
This will be the third CFL team to play in the city. The Ottawa Rough Riders, formed in 1876, was a founding member of the CFL in 1958 and played until 1996. A new Ottawa franchise was formed as the “Renegades” in 2002, and lasted until the end of the 2005 season.
The name may seem awkward, but there’s lot behind it in terms of local symbolism, as detailed by team owner Jeff Hunt in the Ottawa Sun.
The whole issue of how to re-design historic Lansdowne Park and mitigate impacts on surrounding residents was one of the reasons this took so long. And there’s more to thrash out there, especially in terms of getting up to 24,000 fans to an urban home field with precious little space. As the Ottawa Citizen’s city reporter Joanne Chianello put it:
Redblacks organization to public: Please, for the love of God, do not drive your car to Lansdowne Park on game day.
And in case you didn’t hear him the first 12 times, the chief executive of Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group has this to say to Redblacks ticket holders: “Do not leave home in your car and drive to the venue,” pleaded Bernie Ashe. “There will be no parking at the venue.”
Chianello says the over-all plans to push transit, cycling and walking seem not too bad, though there are bound to be bottlenecks in the area on game days. More transportation details were discussed in separate Citizen reporting by Matthew Pearson.
And if you’re a fan of the other football (soccer) TD Place Stadium will host North American Soccer League games too.
- July 20 – NASL Soccer: Welcome the Ottawa Fury FC to Lansdowne, as they take on the League Champion New York Cosmos.
- July 23 – NASL Soccer: A once in a lifetime opportunity to see a special exhibition match between the Ottawa Fury FC and the storied Rangers FC from Glasgow.
Football – of both types! Ottawa will once again have more on tap than NHL hockey.