Lansdowne Live!

I’m surprised no one in the Ottawa blogosphere (Ottawagosphere?) has talked about this, but Jeff Hunt and his group of local businesspeople with a conditional CFL bid have released their plans for Lansdowne Park, and I have to say, it sure looks sharp. Here’s what the plan looks like:

In a nutshell, this is what we’re looking at:

  • A refurbished\rebuilt Frank Clair Stadium, with a capacity for 25,000 fans, and suitable for both CFL football and soccer
  • A refurbished Civic Centre, presumably with about the same capacity as it currently has (just south of 10,000).
  • An outdoor amiptheatre for musical and theatrical acts, with a capacity of 2,000.
  • A retail park and central promenade, with restaurants and shops lining the areas along Bank and Holmwood. I think some residential development would be involved as well.
  • Community soccer, baseball and football fields.
  • A walk-through aquarium inside the Aberdeen Pavilion.
  • Significantly reduced surface parking, and overall, a much more pedestrian friendly area.
  • A specially designated space for the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, allowing it to continue on in the Glebe.

With the exception of the aquarium (which just makes me go “huh?”), I think this is a fantastic looking plan. Yes, it does require that we essentially allow this public space to become a private development, but if the plan is any indication, it would be an incredible addition to the City of Ottawa. We would have garaunteed space for the Ottawa Farmer’s Markets, along with retail space and community sports fields, indicating to me that Hunt wants a redeveloped Lansdowne Park to be as well-integrated into the Glebe community as possible, certainly an encouraging sign.

In addition, the a refurbished 25,000 seat stadium located in the heart of Ottawa would do wonders for the city. Not only would we have a venue in which we could host the CFL properly, but we would have a place that could act as a temporary home for any number of world class events, a facility which is sorely lacking in Ottawa right now. I also like the idea of keeping the 67s at Lansdowne Park, as it would ensure that it would become a year-round venue, and not something that closes up shop entirely in the winter.

What will be most interesting, perhaps, is to see how, firstly the City reacts to this, and next how Eugene Melnyk and his group looking for a Major League Soccer franchise react. Melnyk has proposed his own 30,000 seat stadium near Scotiabank Place in Kanata, and Hunt’s plan is clearly in opposition to this, especially given some of the slightly snide remarks on the Lansdowne Live! website indicating their stadium would be suitable for MLS play. What we will probably see in the coming months, as these two local sports magnates duke it out, is a battle between urban and suburban, redevelopment versus sprawl, and, in the face of rising oil costs, perhaps even the future versus the past. I will most definitely be cheering on Hunt’s plan, and I sincerely hope that City Council is able to share his vision, and work with him towards making it a reality.

8 Responses to “Lansdowne Live!”

  1. October 18, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Does it absolutely require turning the whole works over to private hands?

    Yes, I’m skeptical about that aspect of things. Lansdowne has been public space for a long time, and I’m hesitant about tossing that element of the Park out the window.

    That particular irritant aside, the rest of the proposal looks to be an idea worth pursuing.

  2. October 18, 2008 at 7:05 am

    And no, I’m not thrilled at all with Mr. Melnyk’s Kanata suggestion. If we’re looking to contain urban sprawl – and we are – then Mr. Melnyk should find it a condition of getting the city’s support for his soccer team that he throw in with the Lansdowne operation.

  3. October 18, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    “I’m surprised no one in the Ottawa blogosphere (Ottawagosphere?) has talked about this”

    I was wondering who’d be the first to crack! I think we’re all tuckered out from the election(s)!

    – RG>

  4. 4 David McClelland
    October 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Hehe, personally, I found it refreshing to think about a shiny new development as opposed to Canada Votes 2006 Part 2: The Revenge.

  5. October 20, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Yep, I think we’re all pretty bagged after the election.

    I’m surprised to say that the plan (as you present it) looks good. I love that they’ve reduced the surface parking and made some room for sports fields.

  6. October 20, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    As for the ownership, the city would maintain ownership of the land and the stadium, and would negotiate a lease to the ownership group. I imagine this lease would have to be in place before the group decided to commit their estimated $120M investment into the plan. The only expense to the city (as I understand) is the reconstruction/rebuilding of Frank Clair Stadium, which they would be able to recover in these lease payments.

    I agree with your analysis of the choices that have to be made, which are implied in the decision: “a battle between urban and suburban, redevelopment versus sprawl, and, in the face of rising oil costs, perhaps even the future versus the past”. Well-put. I like the Hunt bid significantly more, and I think that fact that they have a conditional franchise–rather than an unlikely-to-be-accepted bid in process–makes this idea, at first glance, more likely. It would be my preference.

    And, personally, I love the aquarium. This city doesn’t really have any zoological attractions, and the zoo would make the park an attraction on days where there aren’t games.

  7. 7 David McClelland
    October 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    I’m split on the idea of the aquarium. As you say, the city doesn’t have any zoological attractions, but at the same time I’m not sure if the Aberdeen Pavilion is the place for it. Though, to be fair, it’s current uses aren’t exactly stellar either, so I guess we’ll just have to wait for the city to weigh in.

  8. October 26, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I think we could do with an aquarium. The closest we’ve got at the moment is the Museum of Nature, as a sidebar attraction of the cafeteria, if memory serves. But it is a federal facility, and the aquarium is not the whole, primary focus of the place.

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