Lansdowne stadium 'monopoly' clause nixed
Clauses could kill professional soccer dreams
City council and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group agreed Friday to remove the controversial clause from the public-private partnership agreement. City council is scheduled to vote on the entire deal on Monday.
The exclusivity clause, explained to councillors Thursday, had stated that if the city does back a new sports facility with more than 5,000 seats in the next 30 years, OSEG has the right to:
- Walk away from certain agreements with the city concerning Lansdowne Park's Frank Clair Stadium.
- Be the first organization given the opportunity to lease the new facility for its Canadian Football League franchise or Ontario Hockey League team.
Coun. Christine Leadman had questioned city manager Kent Kirkpatrick about the implications Thursday.
"So is the city granting a monopoly on football and stadiums to the CFL partnership for 30 years?" Leadman asked.
"The answer is yes," Kirkpatrick responded.
OSEG has formed a public-private partnership with the city to redevelop Lansdowne Park near Bank Street, just north of the Rideau Canal. As part of that redevelopment agreement, OSEG will build condos, offices, shops and restaurants at the site, and the city will fund the renovation and upgrade of the hockey arena and football stadium.
OSEG member Jeff Hunt currently owns an Ontario Hockey League team, the Ottawa '67s, which is based at Lansdowne Park. The group has also been awarded a CFL franchise conditional on the organization reaching a lease agreement for a renovated Frank Clair Stadium.
Competing stadium would be 'detrimental': Greenberg
OSEG member Roger Greenberg, CEO of Minto developments, said the non-compete clause makes sense.
"We don’t believe that there are many opportunities for filling up a stadium, and we don't believe that our partners should be competing with us — it's a conflict of interest."
The clause is intended to lay out how a dispute over a new stadium would be resolved so it doesn't wind up in court, Greenberg added.
One of Leadman's concerns is that it isn't clear what type of support for another facility — such as tax breaks and the waiving of development charges — would trigger the clause. The city has traditionally provided that kind of support for facilities such as Scotiabank Place in Kanata, which is home to the NHL's Ottawa Senators.
Leadman added that it also isn't clear what agreements with the city OSEG would be able to walk away from — just the stadium or also the commercial developments. She doesn't think the city could afford to allow the agreement to be broken, and said the city would likely end up saddled with running a money-losing sports team or having to find a sports team to act as a tenant for Frank Clair Stadium.
"We're hardly in a position to be operating a sports franchise."
'Soccer may not come'
The owners of Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Senators have proposed building a professional soccer stadium in Kanata, and Leadman said those plans could be affected by the Lansdowne Park deal.
"Soccer may not come as a result of these limitations that are in the contract."
Such implications led Cyril Leeder, chief operating officer for the Ottawa Senators, to raise the alarm in an email to west-end councillors Thursday.
"This is not only bad public policy — it is inappropriate and likely illegal," he said. "It will certainly have major negative consequences for the Ottawa Senators and the city.… In addition, it would appear that the language is so far-reaching that it might prevent council from working with the Senators in the future."
Leeder said councillors should withdraw their support for the deal unless the "restrictive covenants" are removed.
In September 2008, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and his Senators Sports and Entertainment group unveiled plans for a west-end professional stadium that would seat as many as 30,000 people. It was intended to be home to a Major League Soccer franchise that Melnyk was bidding for, and it was hoped that the city would offer support, perhaps providing the land for free.
In the end, Vancouver and Portland beat out Ottawa's bid for an expansion team in 2011, and Melnyk agreed to postpone his request for city support for a stadium until after the Lansdowne redevelopment was settled.