Liberals set 2017 goal for revitalized Ontario Place

Ontario's Liberal cabinet has endorsed all 18 recommendations of John Tory's special panel struck to study the future of Ontario Place, Tourism Minister Michael Chan said on Wednesday.

Cabinet endorses all 18 recommendations of John Tory-led panel

The Ontario Place site should be free to the public and be open year-round, says a special panel appointed to provide recommendations on its revitalization. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ontario's Liberal cabinet has endorsed all 18 recommendations of John Tory's special panel struck to study the future of Ontario Place, Tourism Minister Michael Chan said on Wednesday.

Performing "due diligence" and an assessment of the site will begin right away and cost about $5.5 million, he told assembled media at Queen's Park.

Key recommendations in Tory's report

Ontario Place should:

  • Respect the site’s natural beauty, protect sightlines, and provide easy public access to the waterfront.
  • Set 10 to 15 per cent of the site aside for residential development and consider the possibility of a hotel or resort.
  • Include space for commerce and business.
  • Have a year-round performance venue.
  • Generate revenue for the site through entertainment and culture activities, public-private partnerships, and donor support for a legacy project.
  • Work to secure a research or education centre including an "institutional anchor tenant with international repute."
  • Be accessible to all and completely barrier-free.
  • Stay open year-round.
  • Explore ways to keep the Cinesphere and pods in any future designs.
  • Work with Exhibition Place to explore joint planning and access.
  • Explore increased public transit to the area.

The goal would be to have the new site completed by 2017 in time for Canada's 150th birthday.

The old Ontario Place site was an amusement park for 41 years before the cash-strapped Liberals decided to shut it down.

The party then appointed a panel led by John Tory, the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, to find ways to breathe new life into the site.

The site should provide an opportunity for people to live, work and play in year-round without having to pay for admission, Tory said then. Chan said the government would follow that approach, but said it was too early to get into details.

Tory's group's recommendations, released in late July, called for large portions of the now-shuttered amusement park to be converted to parkland, with private residences, a hotel and a resort complex all pushed as possibilities. The report said the site should be free, open year-round, and protect sightlines to the water.

"We see Ontario Place as a new public backyard for all Ontarians," Tory said at the time.

The panel also ruled out the possibility of a casino at the site. Chan said the government agrees with that as well.

"Let me say it again: No casino," Chan said.