The professors weigh in, for the most part in favour of Lansdowne as a location. Who does Melnyk have on his side... oh right, the brain-dead coach of the Ottawa Fury PDL team!
Quality of life key to stadium issue, expert says
Parking, neighbourliness, surrounding development matter
By Maria Cook, The Ottawa Citizen
March 25, 2009 11:12 PM
[i]OTTAWA-If Ottawa wants a new sports stadium that contributes to the quality of city life, then Lansdowne Park is a better bet than Kanata, a U.S. stadium expert says.
The key issues for success will be parking, neighbourliness and surrounding new development, says Philip Bess, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
“Traditional neighbourhood stadiums remain the best way to approach contemporary stadium design,? says Bess, author of City Baseball Magic — Plain Talk and Uncommon Sense about Cities and Baseball Parks.
Next month, Ottawa city council will make a decision on two unsolicited development proposals that include outdoor, open-air stadiums.
One involves building a soccer-centred stadium on private property beside Scotiabank Place in Kanata, along with offices, restaurants, bars, apartments and hotels.
The other involves refurbishing Frank Clair Stadium for a Canadian Football League franchise as part of a plan to build houses, shops and offices on public land at Lansdowne Park.
City staff recommendations are to be released April 6, public delegations heard on April 20, and the final council decision is expected April 22.
“You want a sense of vibrancy in the neighbourhood that the park becomes part of,? Bess said in an interview.
“It’s more complicated than putting a stadium in a green field in the suburbs, but it’s generally a much more satisfying esthetic experience and economic experience.?
Being able to walk or take public transit, eat and shop on nearby streets and integrate visits into daily life are part of what makes a neighbourhood stadium attractive, Bess says.
However, he warns that economic benefit cannot be the driving motive. “The best reason for a city to promote an urban stadium has to do with quality of life.?
He cites Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park as good examples. Each occupies a city block that contains houses, stores, businesses and industry. At Wrigley, people can watch games from the tops of buildings across the street.
“Both Wrigley and Fenway have had a hugely positive impact on the neighbourhood,? Bess says. “The real estate around there is extremely valuable.?
In the past 25 years stadiums tended to move to the suburbs, but the fans have returned to the city. “Fans began to realize that new stadiums in the suburbs didn’t have the same character and that began an upturn.?
Economic spinoffs tend to be local. For example, there are two dozen restaurants and several bars within a five-minute walk of Wrigley. “You don’t have to eat at the ballpark,? Bess says.
Bess once asked Wrigley’s director of operations if concession sales were hurt because of that.“He said, ‘We do OK. We understand that, for a lot of people, it’s the ambience of the neighbourhood that contributes to the experience at Wrigley.’
“They understand there’s a reciprocal relationship between the quality of the neighbourhood and the quality of the experience of their park,? Bess says. “They recognize it as an economic advantage.?
Parking is the critical issue in making it work, he says.
“If you concentrate it in one place, you make any kind of positive impact on neighbourhood impossible or unlikely.?
Bess suggests there should be a variety of parking, including a structure beside the stadium, surrounded by mixed-use buildings to mask it, but providing easy access to the stadium.
“The teams covet the revenue, but they shouldn’t take it all because it destroys the possibility for positive relationships with buildings across the street.?
Local businesses and home owners should be encouraged to charge for parking on their private property, businesses could share parking off-hours, and street restrictions could be lifted at times.
“At Wrigley, they had to negotiate this,? says Bess. “The Cubs play half their games in the daytime, the other half at night. You can park on the street during the day, but, after a certain hour you can’t, so that people who live there can park when they come home.
“It’s a compromise to not tick them off, otherwise you’ve got a political problem.?
Another part of the parking plan could be a series of small surface lots scattered throughout the neighbourhood within a 10-minute walk of the stadium.
“You want to have as much public transportation to the site as possible and encourage transit use as much as possible,? Bess says.
A mixed-use development including residential at Lansdowne is essential to its success, he says. While Lansdowne is in a neighbourhood, it occupies the site like a suburban stadium, surrounded by surface parking.
Bess is familiar with Ottawa having given a talk here last fall. The Rideau Canal is “quite an amenity,? he says.
Finally, the architecture should reflect the fact that a stadium is an important civic building.
“It should have a certain degree of decorum and built to a high quality. New stadiums today, they’re not well proportioned, not built to be durable.?
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No Field of Dreams[url=http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/Field+Dreams/1424608/story.html]http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Sports/Fie ... story.html[/url]
By Robert McLeman, Citizen Special
March 25, 2009
[i]City council is now facing two unsolicited proposals to build a new stadium suitable for professional soccer and/or football.
Both proposals come from groups involved with ownership of hockey teams in the city. The group associated with the Ottawa 67s, who play out of the arena at Lansdowne Park, not surprisingly, want to see a new football stadium next door. The competing group, associated with the Senators, wants to build a stadium next to Scotiabank Place. Again, no surprise. For the taxpayers being asked to foot most of the bill, which location makes the most sense to put a new stadium?
Three key factors make a sports stadium a success: accessibility, surrounding amenities, and the nature of the sporting event that anchors the venue. The on-field or on-ice success of the team that plays inside the venue is of less importance.
Let's start with accessibility. When Montreal and Toronto replaced their aging NHL rinks in recent years, they built them downtown. The other Original Six teams -- Boston, Chicago, Detroit and New York -- all play downtown. Vancouver's arena is downtown, Edmonton and Calgary play in rinks right on the edge of the city centre.
The same story goes for baseball. Iconic Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are urban ballparks. When Yankee Stadium and Tiger Field were replaced, the ballparks stayed downtown. Minor league ballparks from Toledo to Winnipeg are all downtown.
For sports such as hockey, basketball and baseball, with long seasons and many week-night games, having the stadium or arena downtown is essential.
You want fans to be able to go straight from work to the game and get home on public transportation. Or, if they are coming from home with the kids, you want them to be able to get to the game and back quickly.
You don't want your fans sitting in traffic on the Queensway. That's a big reason why seats for midweek Sens games are hard to sell, and why the baseball stadium sits empty.
The amenities that surround a sports facility are also critical. Anyone who has been to a game in Boston or Montreal knows that much of the thrill comes from going out for dinner and drinks before or after the game, and from the boisterous atmosphere on the sidewalks near the stadium. Major League Soccer's Toronto FC franchise is wildly successful. The team plays in a new downtown stadium, and there is a long waiting list for tickets. When you go to see Toronto FC, the game itself is almost incidental to the experience. After all, a soccer match is completed in less than two hours, and the team has yet to reach the playoffs. Its success with fans is built on recreating the European soccer experience, which necessitates a downtown setting.
The FIFA Under-20 World Cup gave Ottawa sports fans a taste for big-league soccer played in a downtown stadium. If you were there, you need no further explanation. If you weren't, suffice it to say that Lansdowne Park was packed to the rafters, and restaurants and pubs within walking distance were throbbing. That atmosphere could never have been created in a Kanata parking lot.
The nature of the sporting event is a third crucial factor. The only professional sports league in North America that consistently fill stadiums outside the urban centre is the National Football League. NFL teams draw fans from large regional markets and play only eight regular season home games a year, mostly on Sunday afternoons. Fans will drive hundreds of kilometres to attend a game, and the smallest NFL stadium holds more than double the people Frank Clair stadium does. So the location of an NFL stadium is dictated by the availability of lots of cheap land and access to regional highways.
Canadian Football League games are typically scheduled on week nights. It therefore makes sense they be played in the urban centre, as they are in Hamilton, Montreal and Toronto. Montreal Alouettes games, played in McGill University's happily cramped stadium, generate an atmosphere comparable to a Toronto FC soccer match. It's no surprise that the CFL's Argos would dearly love to get out of the soulless Skydome, notwithstanding its downtown location, and into the nearby soccer stadium.
Which brings me to my point about success.
Of all the teams mentioned in this article, only four have won championships this millennium: the Detroit Red Wings, the Boston Red Sox, the Montreal Alouettes and the New York Yankees.
Fans understand championships are rare. If the stadium is easy to get to, fun to be at, and provides a half-way decent spectacle, the fans will come back, even if the home team loses.
My biggest concern about both stadium proposals before council is their need for sweet land deals and for taxpayers to underwrite most of the costs and take most of the long-term risks. In the big picture, it really doesn't much matter if Ottawa does without a CFL or MLS team. But if city councillors really think we need a new stadium, please be wary of voices saying, "If you build it, they will come," especially if they call from Kanata.
Robert McLeman is assistant professor of geography at the University of Ottawa and would love to see the CFL and MLS in Ottawa, but not at any price.
In the movie Field of Dreams, an invisible speaker tells Kevin Costner to build a baseball stadium in a corn field. The voice is right when it says, "If you build it, they will come" -- so long as you build your stadium in the urban core, and not a corn field. The City of Ottawa found this out the hard way the last two times it built a professional sports stadium. Will we strike out a third time?
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