Lansdowne Hurt By Political Bickering

Published on September 4, 2009 3:58 PM by dbo.

This web site is not all about the Ottawa Lansdowne Park revitalization plan or returning the CFL to Ottawa although it seems that way. I do follow the situation closely because I am interested in it. The conditional franchise that is currently in play depends on finding the team a place to play, so Ottawa’s decision on an outdoor stadium has a definite impact on the current plan but also the future. If Ottawa decides Lansdowne should not contain an outdoor stadium, I believe the possibility of a new stadium being built in the foreseeable future to be very slim. That fact will mean no potential owners coming forward in the future.

The decision on Lansdowne is up to Ottawa; it is not for me to interfere. I am saddened by the the encapsulated arguments and spin put on every detail in an effort to sway the public. It is disheartening that this type of politics has to be played rather than being truthful about the vision you hold. Unfortunately our public is so numb to the negative tear-down ideas politics they do not demand more.

There are many that oppose the plan for many reasons. The most vocal are the opposition from the local residents. In truth, it appears their opposition rests squarely on the stadium, as their alternative plan indicates. The stadium contributes too much noise and parking issues to the neighbourhood. Too much commercial space will have the same effect. Their alternative plan provides very limited commercial and residential development with a much greater green space element. The park becomes an extension of the Glebe residents’ backyard. It is not meant to host thousands of people at events, but be a tranquil park for the community. This alternative plan is not what is held up as an argument against the city developed plan. Instead every possible point is spun and held under suspicion for others to latch on to.

The great advantage politicians have is that the public memory is short. They use this when they ignore historical facts and issue arguments that are contrary to each other over time to make it seem like the there is greater opposition than there may be. Here are a few spun topics and a break down of the real issue.

  • The city is rushing to develop the park.

    Not slow enough? Lansdowne has been an issue for decades. The parking lot didn’t appear overnight. The stadium has been there since the 1960’s and neglect in the 1990’s led to the condemnation of the lower south stands in 2007 and their demolition in 2008. There has been about 18 months since a potential tenant for the stadium has been known. It does not take decades for a collective community, even of one million people, to decide what to do with 40 acres of land.

  • The city is broke but can find more than $100 million to contribute to this project.

    Fanciful ideas that a plan will come along that will produce a park but cost the city nothing are wishful thinking. Comparisons to other great parks are often made, yet no one acknowledges the cost of establishing those parks (many a century ago) or the cost of their upkeep with public funds. The options are a partnership that produces a mixed use site (commercial, stadium, park) or publicly funding a larger park. The alternative plan does not have a price tag on it however. No one from that camp says “We would like the city to spend $50 million to demolish the stadium and create this park”. For a pure park will have to be publicly funded and maintained by the city unless you want a commercial enterprise to charge for admission. The revenue has to come from somewhere. With the proposed plan, the city does not pay more than their established maintenance costs. Other municipalities looking at stadiums wish they had private developers willing to partner and share the costs.

  • The plan’s inclusion of housing is reason to reject it.

    Whatever you believe should have been followed, the council’s instruction that the design should not include residential dwellings or the city’s development guidelines that restrict single-use development in the Greenbelt, the location of townhouses along Holmwood Avenue provides a buffer to the commercial activity that improves the site. The second phase hotel and four and six-storey condo buildings on Bank Street also provide a street front, but could be replaced with other buildings or nothing if desired.

  • There is too much retail space, which will oversaturate the neighbourhood.

    I believe that those looking at the end result 408,000 figure which is end of Phase 2 fail to understand that includes structures that will take up the majority of the space. A hotel and potential theatre will have massive square footage, but will not have commercial competitors in the neighbourhood to affect. The shopping mall in a park analogy is weak. Besides the number, people need to understand the types and locations. Objections to the hotel and theatre are fine, they are not critical to the plan.

  • The stadium will be empty in a few years.

    This is a great spin tactic, basically “you’ll be sorry”, that is difficult for people to see through because it involves someone’s prediction of the future. It places some doubt in people and they have no way of calculating the possibility of the event occurring. Simply, the spin is to remind the public that owners twice mismanaged a team into the ground, the first time after a proud 100 year existence, without any context on the reasons. They do not single out the owners as the cause, but push the blame to the league, which is not worthy of them. However, those past failures cannot predict the next result. In this case, the owners make the difference.

  • The developers are in this to make money.

    They are businessmen and we do live in a capitalistic economy. A 50-50 split of site revenue, predicted as $1.6 million to each party annually is only an 8% return for the developers, not an offensive rate of return at all. The city receives, in addition, $3.8 million annually in tax revenue. The developers have also said the only components of the plan that are not negotiable are the stadium/arena, the Aberdeen Pavilion and the green space so there is plenty of flexibility on their part.

Compared to 100% publicly funded mega-stadiums, of which Canada has a few, this type of partnership is the most cost-effective way for the city to maintain the investment in the existing structure and achieve a stadium in a park setting like none other in North America. Simply tearing it down throws away 40 years of investments in it and the benefits to the community it can bring. Read the full report, tweak it if needed, but understand that sometimes the only option available to you now is the best option. Then vote.

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Lansdowne Hurt By Political Bickering was published on September 4, 2009 3:58 PM by dbo.

1,168 words.

This article is categorized under Stadiums and tagged with lansdowne-park and ottawa.