Without much of a fuss about it, more than a year before they take the field, Ottawa’s CFL team, soon to be officially named the RedBlacks, are taking season ticket deposits — already more than 5,000.
It’s amazing, really ... and shows that Ottawa isn’t just Hockey Country and is about to add Football Country to its credentials.
“We haven’t spent 10 cents on marketing,” said Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group president Jeff Hunt. “It’s a great indication of what’s to come. It’s pretty organic. No business expects to sell its product without marketing.
“In 2008, when we got the expansion franchise, we got 2,500 PRNs (Priority Registration Numbers, at $25 a pop) within a week. We then became preoccupied with getting the process underway. We felt let’s get the stadium approved and do the marketing later. Since we got that certainty (the final OK to build the stadium last October), there was another run on PRNs.
“It’s word of mouth ... people coming to us. When we do launch our (tickets), probably in early June, we will start to market our season tickets.”
Getting a PRN is a good way for fans to ensure they wind up with good seats. Eventually, when everything is in place, fans will be able to choose where they sit.
“The PRN program that we’ll launch, probably in June, will really be for season tickets,” said Hunt. “This creates an orderly process to selling the tickets. But we won’t be in position for people to start picking their seats until the fall.
“We’re looking at software that will allow fans to choose a seat and actually see what their view will be like from that seat. Years ago, when I bought my Senators season tickets (for the inaugural 1992-93 season), all I could look at was a one-dimensional blueprint on the wall. I didn’t have a great perspective of what I would be looking at from my seat.”
The RedBlacks have hired a GM — Marcel Desjardins — and two other football employees — Jeremy Snyder and Miles Gorrell — and will choose up to four players in the May 6 CFL Draft, only able to pick from a group of Canadian-born redshirted players (with one more year of college eligibility) from the NCAA ranks.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for years to do,” said Hunt. “It’s abstract for a lot of fans. As the stadium comes out of the ground, when you hire a GM, pick some players ... you start to make it more real for fans.
“Fans are still consumed with hockey ... as they should be. But soon, the CFL season will begin. This time next year, we’ll have a team ready to go on the field. It becomes a reality ... that this is coming quick.
“Thinking ahead to this CFL season, what’s really interesting is every game I watch, I’m going to be wondering which of those players is going to be wearing an Ottawa uniform next season. Even last year as Ottawa fans watched the CFL, we didn’t have certainty about the CFL team here, at least not until mid-October.”
It may still be a dull roar, but there is excitement building ... it brings back memories of the Senators 20 years ago, when Hunt, No. 212 on the PRN list, bought eight season tickets.
Now, quietly, the sights and sounds of the CFL at Lansdowne Park, are nearing.