Group bids to remake Lansdowne Park to bring CFL back to Ottawa

A group hoping to bring the CFL back to Ottawa has announced ambitious plans to revitalize Lansdowne Park with an upgraded football and soccer stadium, a refurbished arena and exhibition hall, an aquarium, a retail and restaurant complex, and more.

Plan includes stadium, refurbished arena, aquarium, restaurant, shopping

A group hoping to bring the CFL back to Ottawa has announced ambitious plans to revitalize Lansdowne Park with an updated football and soccer stadium, a refurbished arena and exhibition hall, an aquarium, a retail and restaurant complex, and more.

The group includes the owner of the Ottawa 67's, Jeff Hunt, and Minto property developer Roger Greenberg.

Greenberg said the plans were just "step 2 of 122" in the process. The group was hoping to be in play for 2010, but meeting that date might prove too ambitious.

"We haven't formally ruled out the 2010 season," Hunt said, "but as this goes on, it may not be reasonable to hit that date."

There are many other potential stumbling blocks in the group's way.

Hunt's group is proposing a 30-year lease of the land and has to convince the city to agree to pay the cost of the facelift and maintain its current operating and repair costs, while it will put up the money for the rest.

The consortium has already been granted a franchise for a team by the Canadian Football League, conditional on getting approval for its Lansdowne Park plan, and said Friday it will raise $120 million just to get the project started.

The plan, called Lansdowne Live, will be formally presented to the city on Monday, but was unveiled at Lansdowne Park on Friday.

"This revitalization proposal creates a centrally located, year-round gathering place for all residents of Ottawa and tourists from across the country and around the world," Greenberg said.

The Lansdowne Live proposal calls for:

  • An upgraded 25,000-seat, state-of-the-art stadium for professional and amateur football, soccer, community events and major concerts.
  • A refurbished arena and exhibition hall.
  • An aquarium to be housed in the Aberdeen Pavilion.
  • Soccer pitches, event lawns, an ultimate-disc field, formal gardens and ponds.
  • A 2,000-seat outdoor amphitheatre.
  • A 200,000 square-foot retail and restaurant complex located where the Coliseum Building now stands.

Since the demise of the Ottawa Renegades prior to the start of the 2006 season, any attempts to revive pro football have faced the hurdle of finding either a new home or convincing the city to allow for the redevelopment of the current stadium.

The league's offer to Hunt's group is set to expire in March, so they're keen to get the ball rolling. Hunt and company will present a more detailed proposal at its meeting with the city.

"There's been a lot of public sentiment about what should be here. What we've tried to do is represent that input," said Hunt.

Greenberg said he'd like the city to make up its mind by next March when the group's conditional franchise in the CFL expires.

The councillor who represents the area, Clive Doucet, said he welcomes the consortium's bid, but it should be just one of many the city considers.

Doucet said he's unlikely to support this proposal because it contains too many buildings and parking spaces, and not enough public green space.

 "We know that this is publicly owned land, and whatever redevelopment happens at Lansdowne, it must enhance public use and generate new revenues for the city," said a third partner in the group, John Ruddy, president of Trinity Developments. 

"We are prepared to secure $120 million in private financing to make it happen. At the end of the day, we'll strike an agreement with the city that protects public ownership, increases the value of the property, delivers returns to the taxpayers and provides a workable business model," Ruddy said.

The consortium is calling this a revenue-neutral deal for taxpayers, but the city would be responsible for renovating the stadium and the civic centre arena where the Ottawa 67's play.

With files from the Canadian Press