By Shane McNeil
It’s less than a year until next season’s Grey Cup festivities and Ottawa’s football and entertainment minds already have the end zone in sight.
The game, dubbed “Kickin’ it in the Capital” by promoters, will hit Ottawa on Nov. 21, 2004.
A five-day festival surrounding the final is already in the works.
Organizers sent a team of approximately 50 delegates to this year’s Grey Cup in Regina.
This group included players, Ottawa alumni, team officials, organizers and some supportive politicians. Team Governor and CEO Randy Gillies saw lots of opportunities to get the City of Ottawa involved in the event.
“This year’s Grey Cup was such a great Regina event,” says Gillies. “It gave us a lot of ideas on how we could make next year’s a huge success.”
Gillies won’t have to think too hard to come up with popular events. The Beaver Bash, hosted by the Renegades at this year’s final, was called one of the biggest parties held all weekend by local and national media.
The party attracted many of the CFL’s elite players and executives at a hotel ballroom to wine and dine and talk about issues surrounding the league and the Grey Cup in particular.
The planning team has every intention of bringing the event home next year.
“It will just be one long week of parties, concerts and events,” says communications co-ordinator Guy Napert-Frenette.
Plans for concerts and comedy nights are already in the works, though no performers have been mentioned yet. Organizers also plan on hosting a Fan Fest featuring exhibits, interactive games and challenges, and player appearances.
They are expecting about 100,000 people for the event and are hoping for revenues of up to $50 million for the city.
Team president Brad Watters says the city should be able to handle the influx of people.
“It’s only a week, so it’s not going to take any longer than the exhibition,” he says. Watters, who made the trip to Regina this year, says his largest problem with this year’s Grey Cup was that the events were spread too far across the city.
With such large crowds expected, keeping the events close together is important to organizers. Napert-Frenette says Sparks Street, Elgin Street and the Byward Market are key spots being targeted for the festivities.
There will also be a welcome centre set up at City Hall to provide information to visitors.
Organizers have already run into some snags planning for the game. The Ottawa Coliseum group, which puts a dome over the field at Frank Clair Stadium each winter, would likely have to delay its opening as they wait for the stadium to vacate after the event. Negotiations are ongoing between Coliseum representatives and the City of Ottawa. The two sides are still debating over compensation for the business the Coliseum would lose due to delaying their opening.
But Gillies says he is sure that the show will go on as planned.
“This will be huge for the city,” he says. “There was a time when a lot of people didn’t want anything to do with football in this city. But we’re hoping to bring back some of the glory and create a lot of pride for the city.”
The organizing team still has a lot to do. They are still planning to return to Regina and fully assess how the city did this year. They will also continue to promote the game in schools, and try to recruit volunteers before training camp opens in April.
“This is the biggest event this city’s seen in a long time,” says Watters of hosting the Grey Cup. “It’s something special and it will be treated that way.”