Published on October 18, 2008 6:10 PM by dbo.
The Ottawa conditional CFL franchise group announced new details Friday regarding their Lansdowne Park revitalization plan. The group, headed by Jeff Hunt and backed by local developers Roger Greenberg, William Shenkman and John Ruddy, publicly unveiled their plans for Lansdowne Live!, a $120 million sports and entertainment development for the Lansdowne Park area of Ottawa.
The plan has received support in the local media, but a negative reaction from some councilors, like Clive Doucet, who said “It’s so fluid that you can’t make any sense out of it.” Based on public comments on media coverage, citizens of the Ottawa region and country are fairly evenly split over the proposal.
In addition to a 25,000 seat stadium suitable for Canadian Football, soccer, community events and concerts, the plan includes:
The high level cost sharing arrangements in the plan were also revealed, with more details expected to be explained in the presentation to city council in the weeks to come. The City of Ottawa would be responsible for the refurbishment or demolition and reconstruction of the stadium (the south side stands have already been demolished). It is estimated that refurbishment of the stadium could cost $50 million or more. The group is then willing to sign a 30-year lease with the city and assume future capital and operational costs for the stadium. The partners are prepared to obtain and commit $120 million in funds for the remainder of the development. The developers say the plan is revenue neutral for the city, as it eliminates the city’s multi-million dollar per year operating budget for the decaying property and increases tax revenue from the housing and retail development. The land remains publicly owned, allowing the city to reap the benefits of the park in the years to come.
Along with complaints about the design and features, the proposal is being criticized for being short on details. This is actually a benefit to the city and public. The developers call it “a vision, not a final plan”. There is, in fact, few models and images of the stadium that usually accompany stadium announcements. They have included feedback from public consultation in their plan, but it is still open to adjustments. By not providing a specific plan for a demolished stadium with a list of features and a price tag, the development group is leaving the details up to the city. While the developers want a stadium that befits the nation’s capital, it is up to the city to determine whether to refurbish or rebuild. The city is aware, though, that they must meet the needs of the developers in terms of necessities in the stadium (corporate boxes, amenities, comfort) and revenue generation for the developers to want to sign a 30-year lease.
The conditional CFL ownership group prove they are serious about their desire to revitalize the Lansdowne Park area and own an Ottawa CFL franchise long term with this proposal. A promise to sign a 30-year lease and manage the stadium shows a commitment to the City of Ottawa that not many others would make. Their answers to the questions on the plan and the CFL franchise role read as very sincere. Anyone interested in showing their support for the return of CFL football to Ottawa can commit a $25 per seat reservation. This fee is fully refundable if the franchise does not field a team and is non-refundable when a team is fielded but is applied against the purchase price of season tickets.
Other proposals for the park will be forthcoming to city council. There will also be much debate over the benefits of this proposal versus the Eugene Melnyk proposal for a soccer stadium in Kanata. Ottawa should get a much better return from any proposal on a stadium and revitalization at Lansdowne Park than a soccer stadium on the fringe of the city, but it will all come down to convincing local politicians they need to take this opportunity now as waiting for a zero capital cost proposal would be foolish.
A final interesting tidbit with the announcement was the presence of an old Ottawa Rough Riders “R” helmet at the press conference. Partner John Ruddy stated the group has “a basic agreement in place for the Rough Rider name” with Horn Chen, who retained the name rights with the demise of the Rough Riders franchise in 1996. The CFL Information FAQ on the Lansdowne Live! site states the team name will be chosen with input from the fans, but as they have contacted Chen and know his price, the Rough Rider name is definitely an option.