Published on April 22, 2009 11:21 PM by dbo.
A motion for the City of Ottawa to enter into 60 days of negotiations with the local developers who proposed the Lansdowne Live! plan to revitalize Lansdowne Park passed today by a vote of 14 to 9. The negotiations are meant to iron out details of the development plan and see if the developers can meet the strict requirements of the city laid out in the motion, including requirements for green space on the site and restrictions on the allowed development, a limit to the city’s financial contribution and the annual cost to the city not exceed the current $3.8 million the city spends on park upkeep today and park revenues not subsidizing a professional sport team.
Earlier it looked like an expensive compromise that would support both stadiums was gaining support, but the decision on the soccer stadium was postponed until the results of the Lansdowne negotiations are known. Despite some councillors still believing in soccer in Ottawa, the killing of Melnyk’s stadium and franchise may have just saved it from failing later. Another motion to create an open design competition for Lansdowne Park was also defeated.
The motion requirements have left some to expect the resulting plan be called Lansdowne Lite as many of the components in the developer’s vision may be jettisoned. The Ottawa Citizen endorsed the Lansdowne motion again in an editorial, encouraging action on a less than perfect plan rather than chasing the elusive perfect one. Once again The Bulldog provided some great coverage of the days events as they happened.
On this decision day not only on an outdoor stadium for Ottawa, but effectively a plebiscite on the CFL returning also, a brief history of the CFL in Ottawa was put forward along with an endorsement from the Sun‘s Tim Bains, while globesports.com’s Steven Brunt considers a 9th franchise in Ottawa the key for the CFL to get a 10th franchise.
In developments from outside Ottawa, premier Dalton McGuinty hinted to provincial funds for the stadium but there still was no official word from the province. Mark Cohon released a statement congratulating the City of Ottawa on this step, stating his belief in the conditional franchise owners ability to produce a project in the best interests of the people of Ottawa and reiterating the social and economic benefits of the CFL.
I am sure many have a sense of relief there is finally a decision and direction for this issue facing the city. There is more hard work ahead to negotiate a plan acceptable to the city within the 60 days. While the unsolicited nature of both stadium proposals has often been cited through this process, but one must remember the Jeff Hunt, Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and Bill Shenkman group were awarded their conditional CFL franchise thirteen months ago this Saturday and only needed to arrange a lease agreement with the city. The situation was complicated by a decision to demolish the lower south side stands of Frank Clair Stadium. The group knew they could not bring football back to Ottawa in the same old stadium that had just been made safe for the fans and so were developing a plan to revitalize the stadium/arena and take over the management of the park as submitters to the city’s design competition. Throwing a wrench into the works was the cancellation of the design competition and Eugene Melnyk’s Kanata soccer stadium proposal. The conditional CFL group were forced to up their Lansdowne plan to compete with an outdoor stadium at Kanata. So unsolicited it may have been, it was forced to that due to circumstances beyond their control.
Much criticism of Lansdowne as a stadium site has been directed at the lack of parking and public transportation. This has been a frequent argument of local residents, who propose a new stadium be built in a location which could accommodate a light rail system that is years from breaking ground. Yet this same stadium has hosted large events up to 2007 and new transportation options can be implemented as part of the plan. No matter where a stadium is located, it is impossible to get 15,000 cars at the front doors of a stadium, so some walking is expected.
These developers have been accused by politicians and citizens of effectively trying to steal from city coffers to pushing big box development on the park no matter how often they explained that was not part of the plan. The proof in their intentions will be found in whether they can come to an agreement with the city that meets the city’s fiscal and use requirements. I believe they will and the newly developed Lansdowne will be a proud jewel for the citizens of Ottawa to use as much as they desire.