"I came in [as Riders president]in 2005, the same year that group took control in Calgary," Jim Hopson says of the Stampeders' owners. "They're well-connected with their community. They're aggressive in ticketing [with multiyear season-ticket sales]and marketing [with player appearances] They spend money because they know they've got to invest in their business to build a sustainable engine."
So what's next for the Stampeders? Plenty. The owners want to win another Grey Cup and just might this month. Having helped pay for a new front office and an upgraded clubhouse for the players, there are plans to renovate the service facilities at McMahon, where the Calgary Flames operate the concessions. There's also been talk of how to get more events into the stadium without subjecting the surrounding neighbourhoods to rock concerts.
Five years ago, the owners had a study done to see if the stadium could be covered. Not feasible, they were told. Since then they've looked at having a bubble over the field area during the winter months so it could be used for multiple sports.
"What about building a field house on the practice field [south of the stadium]that the university could use and amateur football teams could use and other off-season sports, like soccer?" Forzani asks. "One of the hardest things to find is land, and the land is there."
Giving back to a community that has supported them has always been part of the plan - the club and Hellard contributed more than $1-million to having artificial turf installed at nearby Shouldice Park - but increasing that commitment is what the Stampeders see as a long-term goal.
"It goes back to doing this for the right reasons," says Mitchell, who remembered the time he was CFL commissioner and baseball's Charlie Finley was hounding him for a CFL franchise. "He said, 'Before I got involved in sports, I sold group benefits. I made millions of dollars and no one knew me. When I bought the Oakland A's, everyone knew me.'
"We don't want to celebrate the highs too much and we want to prepare for the downs. I'm not Charlie Finley."
Nor are he and his partners stooges.
"There's a legitimate, honest business here that makes money - but no one will retire on this," Forzani chortles. "We just want to feel good about what we're doing."Report Typo/Error