Landsdowne Plans Get Approval After A Contentious Battle

29 Jul

Rendering for the proposed Lansdowne Park stadium site.

After months of controversy, the Ottawa City Council passed a plan to completely redevelop the historic Lansdowne Park site, located along the Rideau Canal in the center of Canada’s capital city. The Lansdowne Partnership Plan, which will include a refurbishment of the football stadium and civic centre, retail facilities, and a public park on the city-owned property, passed with a vote of 15 to 9 on June 28.

“How we got to where we are was a difficult route,” said Ottawa Councillor Peter Hume of the fight to get the plan passed. “It was a tortured journey.”

A conditional vote passed last November and the Lansdowne Partnership Plan has been under fire from opposition since. Some council members and area residents still claim the city council didn’t follow its own procurement procedures by accepting a sole-source unsolicited proposal from the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG). Many of those who oppose the plan are threatening to take the issue to court.

OSEG consultant Jeff Polowin said, in spite of the ongoing controversy and potential hurdles that lie ahead, they’re moving forward with the plan.

“We’re hoping to get a shovel in the ground by next spring,” Polowin said.

OSEG has plans to bring a Canadian Football League (CFL) team to Ottawa to play in the new stadium. The field of the current facility gets a lot of community use, Hume said, but one side of the stands had been condemned and was demolished last year, rendering the venue more or less incapable of hosting any big concerts or sporting events.

The refurbished $130 million Frank Clair Stadium will be paid for by the city, using operations and maintenance funds for the current stadium to issue a bond for the new facility. Hume said there are no plans for any tax increases and he expects that the redeveloped site will generate revenue for the city through the CFL team and the retail center, as well as other sports and events. OSEG will be sharing costs for other elements of the site redevelopment plan and will manage the new stadium.

According to Mayor O’Brien’s web site, architects Richard Brisbin, Barry Hobin, and Robert Claiborne of Cannon Design in Toronto will design the urban space. The Lansdowne Park site is more than 150 years old and is seen by many as an historic site in Ottawa, sitting on the Rideau Canal and located in an affluent area known to Ottawans as “The Glebe.” The Lansdowne Partnership Plan will restore many of its historical elements, specifically the Aberdeen Pavilion, which was built in 1898 and is the oldest surviving venue to have hosted the Stanley Cup, which happened in 1904. Polowin said the pavilion is a centerpiece of the redeveloped site.

Key elements of the new stadium include 24,000 seats with 318 wheelchair accessible spaces, 26 corporate boxes, four locker rooms, and FieldTurf field surface. It has been designed to accommodate professional, university and community sports such as soccer, lacrosse, and football, and will also be ideal for concerts and other events.

The next step for the council is to integrate the three major elements of the plan into one. The city held a design contest for the public park space and now the winning design must be combined with OSEG’s amended plan for the stadium, civic centre and retail components.

“They all have to be brought together into a comprehensive plan,” Hume said, adding that they have obtained some of Canada’s top architects and urban developers to oversee the concept and lead the design panel. “We should have master plans done by November of this year.”

The site will also need to be re-zoned in order to accommodate the retail component. Hume said he expects that to pass through council in August or September.

The goal is to have the construction on the new stadium complete and have the CFL team playing by 2013.

“We have to have that stadium built because we’re looking to constrain our costs on the stadium to $130 million,” Hume said, adding that the longer it takes, the more costly the project could become. “The sooner we can get going and get contracts issued, the better.” — Lindsay Sandham

Interviewed for this article: Peter Hume, (613) 580-2488; Jeff Polowin, (613) 786-9929

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