A 40-metre excavator began chipping away at years of memories for Ottawa sports fans Friday, as the demolition of the southside stands at Lansdowne Park got underway.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said the demolition of the rest of Frank Clair stadium's south seats is "an obvious reminder that Lansdowne hasn't progressed with the times."

Many football fans said it was a bittersweet moment.

Byron Smith, president of the 300-member Ottawa Southsiders, said he proudly remembers sitting in those stands, reveling in the bitter rivalry with the fans across the field.

"They always sang the anthem to the northside. All the acts they brought in at half-time were done to the northside," he said. "Somebody up there said 'the northside sucks' and we started with the chant, 'the northside sucks.'"

"I'm a northside guy; my cousin Brad Tierney used to play for the Rough Riders back in the day," said Ottawa councillor Tim Tierney. "I still remember coming to the games shouting 'the southside sucks' so I'm pretty happy to see this happening."

Smith, who was on the southside for nearly every Ottawa Rough Riders game, said their side had to put up with tough conditions during the season.

"The first nights in June you were just roasting hot, you're in sleeveless shirts . . . the last game of the season you were sitting in the snow," he said. "It was raining on you, the pigeons and everything else."

The $550,000 project is scheduled to be finished by mid-January, paving the way for construction on a new stadium in the spring of 2012 unless a legal challenge changes things.

And Smith? He said he'll be back in the cheap seats when football returns, ready to get his chant going once again.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua