City examines costs of new sports facility in the capital
Published Monday, April 6, 2009 6:17PM EDT
Ottawa city council will wait to hear from residents before making a decision about whether to move forward with plans for a new sports stadium in the capital, which would be located either at Lansdowne Park or near Scotiabank Place in Kanata.
Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt is leading the bid to bring CFL back to the capital and revitalize Lansdowne Park with plans that include a sports and entertainment stadium, a refurbished arena, an aquarium, exhibition space, shopping and a home for the Farmer's Market.
Meanwhile, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wants to build a multi-million-dollar Major League Soccer stadium and entertainment complex in Kanata.
Melnyk says his plan would help keep Ottawa on the world stage, bolstering the regional economy and attracting tourists to the capital.
But in the midst of a recession, Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien says the plans are expensive and he doesn't think the city can move forward with both, and possibly neither one.
"Ultimately, they both cost about the same amount of money, so council's going to have to make a decision," O'Brien told CTV Ottawa on Monday.
"Both of the proponents are asking the City of Ottawa and other levels of government to put roughly $100 million into each one and I think in today's economic climate, with our other priorities, it's going to be difficult enough to argue one - it's going to be almost impossible to argue two," he said.
As the city considers the two plans, councillors will have to balance sports stadium funding with other priorities, such as public transit and repairing the city's sewage problem; something that has many city councillors at odds.
"It's amazing that the capital city of Canada would not have an outdoor stadium," said Coun. Bob Monette.
"I think transit is way more important than stadiums. I think moving our people around, giving our people the services they need or want is far more important than building new stadiums," said Coun. Rainer Bloess.
Even though city staff has recommended Lansdowne Live by a narrow margin, Roger Greenberg, one of the partners behind the plan, says he's not happy it's taking so long to make a decision about the project.
"This is a bit of d�j� vu. This exact same discussion was going on 10 years ago, so how many millions of dollars has the city squandered in the last 10 years and where are we today?" asked Greenberg.
But even with the support of city staff, Lansdowne Live has not been approved by city council, which is still considering a bid for a soccer stadium in Kanata.
"I guess the disappointing part from our end is that we've been at this a while and we still haven't had anybody step forward and say this is a good idea from the city's end," said Cyril Leeder of Ottawa Senators Sports and Entertainment.
Since neither side wants to join forces and agree on a common facility, O'Brien says the city has no choice but to examine both plans and decide whether a new stadium in the capital is necessary.
No matter what comes of the stadium debate, O'Brien says the city is going to have to move forward with repairs to Lansdowne Park, as the aging facility continues to fall apart and is in need of tens of millions of dollars in upgrades.
"I'm personally in favour of rejuvenating Lansdowne Park. That was a campaign promise. I think whether it's through Lansdowne Live or some other process, I think we have to finally take this 40-acres of parking lot that's been an eye-sore and have it rejuvenated so it can be something people in Ottawa can be proud of," O'Brien told CTV Ottawa.
Now, the city will try to pry more infrastructure funding for the project from the federal and provincial governments. Council will also wait to see if either developer moves to lower the cost of their proposals.
A city committee will hold public consultations on the stadium debate April 20. The city is expected to make a final decision by the end of April.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Norman Fetterley