Published on September 21, 2008 6:03 PM by dbo.
On the heels of the rejection of a stadium expansion plan for Laval University in Quebec City and Winnipeg’s stadium replacement plan in its third location and funding proposal, Eugene Melnyk has announced a 30,000 seat stadium proposal to be used for an MLS expansion team in Ottawa. The public funding requirements put forward with new stadiums plans in Canada make them a hot political issue, from local to federal politics.
Melnyk’s proposal in Ottawa provides a second stadium proposal, with a different use (soccer-specific, but potentially could accommodate a CFL team) and location (in Kanata, near ScotiaBank Place, the home of Melnyk’s Senators of the NHL) for the City of Ottawa to consider. The unveiling of a Lansdowne Park stadium and redevelopment plan by a group with a conditional CFL franchise is expected in the next few weeks.
Details of Melnyk’s proposal were limited. It appears he expects the land the stadium is to sit on be donated to the project by the city and potentially other pubic funds may be necessary to build the stadium. The stadium is required for Melnyk’s MLS franchise bid, which has an Oct. 15, 2008 deadline. It is expected that MLS will award two expansion franchises late this year or early in 2009 to begin play in 2011. These time lines put the politicians in the Ottawa region in a tight position. It may be upon them to consider and commit to aspects of the stadium proposal for the franchise bid to be complete without all the details of the costs being known.
It was apparent to the citizens of Ottawa that Melnyk’s proposal resulted in a competition for either soccer in Kanata or football at Lansdowne Park since the likelihood of two stadiums being built, especially with public money contributions from the city, are very slim. The outskirts Kanata proposal is not popular with the citizens, even those who are soccer fans, nor is the thought of major public money being hid in the proposal. The obvious question is why don’t both groups team up in their proposals and build a single stadium that meets the needs of both sports? Cooperation of this type provides the greatest benefit to Ottawa and doesn’t needlessly waste pubic money or private money on duplicate infrastructure. Unfortunately, total control of the projects and their goals (one a CFL franchise, the other a MLS franchise) and egos of the businessmen involved will get in the way. Certainly aspects of the stadium design such as a grass field, horseshoe-shaped stands and permanent stage are attractive and with the proper adjustments could be built to handle both a MLS and CFL team and host at least 35 dates a year. Such a stadium could still be a jewel for the City of Ottawa and get much more use in a city centre location neat the canal.
It should be noted that Melnyk could have submitted a stadium as part of a proposal to revitalize the Lansdowne Park area to the City of Ottawa. The fact that he didn’t leads one to believe he either didn’t believe his soccer facility could not compete with other proposals, or sees greater financial benefit to himself in receiving public land at Kanata to build the stadium on.
While there are concerns over public money from all levels of government going into stadium projects for professional sports teams, the federal government appears to have the firmest stance against providing any funding for these projects. It is said the federal government is wary of funding one project in one region and setting a precedent to fund other stadium proposals elsewhere. Football stadium funding may spill over to funding requests for hockey arenas they believe. The federal government has already joined that club with $8.4 million committed to a junior hockey arena in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Obviously the politics involved in who is asking for the money and the political stripe of the area have a huge affect on these decisions. Hopefully the feds will see that their seed funding of these projects is the only way many of these projects will be launched. It is small payment for the years of neglect in not keeping up Canada’s public infrastructure by their actions of distributing the government costs onto cities and provinces.