OTTAWA -- A game nine years in the making is set to take place under the brand new TD Place Stadium lights and the REDBLACKS are eager to put on a show.
There is a buzz in the City of Ottawa as the REDBLACKS host the Toronto Argonauts in what will be the first ever game at their new stadium on the same site as the old Frank Clair Stadium.
Leading the REDBLACKS in their historic opener is Henry Burris who quarterbacks a club looking to earn their first ever win in the most perfect of opportunities.
"I can just imagine how emotional and how much energy is going to be in this stadium and this entire city," Burris said. "I know this fanbase has waited since 2005 to have a true home game and a true home stadium. It's an honour to be here and able to be part of this team to break ground as far as getting this organization and city back into football."
Coming Home: Burris and co. Ready for Opener
The brand new stadium is part of an enitre revitalization project by the REDBLACKS and the City of Ottawa. Once completed, the New Lansdowne will feature a modern, 24,000 seat stadium for football, soccer, concerts and other major events; a refurbished 9,862 seat area for the Ottawa 67’s (OHL) and community hockey, other arena sports, mid-size concerts and other events; two condominium towers and townhomes with a combined 280 units, a 360,000 Sq. Ft. shopping/entertainment district, an office tower, 1,300 underground parking spaces and an 18-acre urban park.
Not since the former Renegades in November 2005 has a CFL team played a home game in Ottawa and the city hasn't celebrated a Grey Cup winner since '76 when Tony Gabriel's historic TD catch rallied the Rough Riders to a thrilling 23-20 victory over Saskatchewan. But a sellout gathering of 24,000 will be on hand for the Redblacks inaugural home game.
"It's a big deal and we've been waiting for this day for a long time.," said Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell. "We've had a bunch of firsts over the last several months as far as what's gone on with our franchise and (Thursday) will be a big night and we're definitely proud of it."
The Journey Back: Cohon 1-on-1 About Ottawa's Return
“Our biggest focus is to entertain this electric atmosphere that’s going to be here,” Burris told CFL.ca's Don Campbell. “We want to come out here and play the type of game (the fans) expect us to play. We’re trying to be the team that mimics what is going on in the stands.
“It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere here on Friday I know my focus right now is to make sure we’re playing amazing football.”
It has been a long but productive road back for a city that has a storied history of football in its DNA. In April of 2006, the CFL, led by then-Commissioner Tom Wright decided to suspend the Ottawa Renegades franchise after owner Bernie Glieberman decided to stop funding the club. April 12, 2006 marked the day all of Ottawa's players were assigned new clubs via a dispersal draft.
A long and patient process, spearheaded by a group of owners now known as the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) and Commissioner Mark Cohon, took place with the approach being strategic and patient. Numerous City debates, an implosion of the condemned South stands of Frank Clair Stadium, extensive research, launch of a new brand and assembling of football and business operations were just the top-line milestones on Ottawa's long journey back to the CFL picture.
"This is my eighth year as Commissioner, so this really has been almost seven-and-a-half years in the making in terms of this project. So when that ball kicks off tonight, it'll be very emotional for me, very proud, and very exciting."
"Thank you for believing in the CFL, thank you for being there over the years, and thank you for showing up with unprecedented support that you're showing our team tonight."
Now all that is left is for the curtain to be raised on what will be a new and promising era in a city where nine Grey Cup Championships bear its name.
- With files from The Canadian Press