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Like a CFL team, MLS franchise needs stadium

Ottawa’s biggest threat to land an MLS franchise may come from its ownbackyard, officials with the soccer league said yesterday.

Ottawa’s biggest threat to land an MLS franchise may come from its own backyard, officials with the soccer league said yesterday.

MLS commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott were in Ottawa and gave a glowing review to the city’s bid for one of two spots available for the league’s 2011 expansion plans. However, it’s the lack of approval for a soccer-specific stadium to be built in Ottawa that may stand in the way.

“That’s really the biggest hurdle that needs to be overcome for us to be able to approve an expansion team here,” Garber said.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is in talks with government officials to secure both the land and partial funding required to build a proposed $110-million stadium near the NHL team’s Scotiabank Place home in the city’s west end.

At the same time, a group led by Jeff Hunt, owner of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, has been granted a conditional CFL franchise and is also looking for the city’s approval to redevelop Lansdowne Park in its downtown area.

It’s been made clear to all parties involved that the city will give the go-ahead to either soccer, football or neither.

“The drawback is we don’t yet have a definitive stadium resolution and that’s the biggest drawback,’’ Garber said after spending two days in meetings with Melnyk’s group and officials from all three levels of government.

Ottawa is the last of five cities vying for an expansion franchise to be visited by MLS representatives. Vancouver, Miami, St. Louis and Portland, Oregon, all have done so already and Garber expects to make an announcement by April.

 
 
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