Some kudos from the media:
Let's take their plan and run with it
Kelly Egan writes that while it may not be the ideal plan, Lansdowne Live is the best one going
[url=http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/city/story.html?id=8e2045f4-d5c7-42df-9a22-a4ccccb58230]http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/new ... ccccb58230[/url]
Kelly Egan, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, October 19, 2008
[i]The City of Ottawa should seize the Lansdowne Live proposal, sharks and all, and run with it, fists pumping, before it's too late.
Five reasons why:
At the moment, Lansdowne Park is the Titanic and city fathers are hanging on a deck rail wondering if they should hop on this lifeboat or wait for a better one.
News flash: we're drowning, this is a lifeline. Grab it. It may be another generation before there is a better confluence of players and opportunity.
Look. The city owns Lansdowne yet laments its sorry state. It has to wear that. It could have turned the park into an "urban jewel" -- now there's poetic licence! -- years ago, but it has done little with it, save restoring the Cattle Castle (nearly at gunpoint) and giving SuperEx more chances than Super 7.
The city does not create great civic spaces because it doesn't know how. Can you name one?
The international design competition, now interrupted, is nothing but a contest to compile pretty pictures on a piece of paper. Who is going to build and pay for some architect's fanciful vision? The city can barely afford to fill a pothole and all the fiscal signals from City Hall are about shrinkage, not expansion.
Be honest. You know that Cullen, Doucet and Co. are never going to pull this off alone. Politics, we know, is quicksand. There are -- here's a teeny example -- already wah-wah cries about a lack of green space in the plan. Green space? The city could have sodded the whole damn 40 acres if it wanted to. Instead, it sits and wrings its hands, year after year, muttering about protecting the public interest.
The truth. Someone else has to drive the bus. Council needs to get on board or get out of the way.
Minto's Roger Greenberg, we all know, is richer than God. Someone whispered in my ear on Friday that he may not even be the wealthiest of the four players behind the proposal. Even better. Let them worry about risk, financing, and cost-overruns, not the taxpayer.
They're also local. They're not going to run away when the football team loses a few million bucks. In fact, they're fully prepared for it. You will not see a Horn Chen peek-a-boo act or a reprise of the disappearing Gliebermans. They're also developers, ergo, they know how to build things. They say they'll spend 120 million bucks? They mean it.
We also know that Jeff Hunt, the Ottawa '67s owner, knows how to run a sports team. Mr. Hunt, too, intimately knows this market. His remarks to the Citizen's Don Campbell, as reported yesterday, are indicative of his fundamental smarts.
The group could, theoretically, attempt to field a team in 2010 with temporary seating in a Band-Aided Lansdowne. No way, he says, and wisely.
New team. New venue. New fan experience. New buzz. It is how you sell it.
Frank Clair Stadium is falling down. Now is the time to act. Not to be forgotten in this debate is the fact that the Greenberg group, unlike the cross-town plan from Eugene Melnyk, has a conditional football franchise in the CFL. There is a deadline, probably extendible, of March 2009. The league, no doubt, wants some assurance that the franchise is making substantive progress toward fielding a team.
If the city passes on this bid, frankly, we may as well tear down the stadium and start from scratch because, last time we checked, Ottawa doesn't have a bank of multimillionaires lining up to run risky sports franchises. And without a major tenant, the stadium is just a drag on the whole park.
- Security and flexibility
It was encouraging to hear the proponents are not wedded to every single idea in their plan, such as the aquarium in the Cattle Castle.
On the downside, it is a jarring use in a period exhibition hall. On the upside, however, it's a recognition that Lansdowne needs a year-round attraction to bring people to the park in the depths of January.
The 250-room hotel, similarly, is a ready way to get human traffic right on the site year-round.
In terms of financing, it is a blank slate. The city is in the envious position of being able to sign lease agreements that will assure it of a revenue stream, while off-loading the operating costs of the stadium and retaining ownership of the land.
The proponents want the city to upgrade the stadium. It is not an unreasonable request, since it sits in public hands, but surely there is room to negotiate on who pays for what.
Lansdowne finally has some. Bog this down with two years of gum-flapping and you may as well kill it now. These private-sector players will not be endlessly patient. There's lots of other things they could be building.
In an ideal world, it may not be the best proposal. But you know what? It's the best thing on the table, mostly because of one great attribute: It's do-able. Now.
Contact Kelly Egan at 613-726-5896 or by e-mail, email@example.com[/i]