Planning committee approves controversial Orléans sports dome

The City of Ottawa's planning committee has approved the plan for a controversial inflatable sports dome at an Orléans high school — but with some conditions.

Plan for inflatable sports dome will go ahead, despite opposition from nearby residents

École secondaire catholique Garneau is aiming to build an inflatable sports dome on the corner of Carrière Street and Orléans Boulevard. Residents say the dome will create an eyesore in the largely residential area. (Google Maps)

The City of Ottawa's planning committee has approved the plan for a controversial inflatable sports dome at an Orléans high school — but with some conditions.

The French Catholic school board, Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE), is aiming to build the all-season sports dome, which was first proposed back in May 2019, at École secondaire catholique Garneau.

The dome would be about 18 metres high, slightly lower than the 23 metres initially proposed.

On Thursday, the committee voted 7-2 in favour of an amended version of the plan, one that gives city planners authority to revise it to add more trees between the structure and the neighbourhood — but not before hearing strong opposition.

Some residents, as well as the local community association, cried foul over the project, arguing that such a large dome shouldn't be built so close to residential buildings.

"If we had known that this massive dome would have dominated our backyard, we would never have purchased our current home," said resident David Schryer, calling the project "an eyesore."

"We will have no view of green space or outdoor sports activities, rather a giant dingy bubble," said Mark Connolly, whose property will be right next door. 

"It's the proverbial window that opens to the view of a brick wall."

Using the city's proposed project dimensions, a community member created this rendering of what the sports dome could look like from the backyard of neighbour Mark Connolly. (City of Ottawa/YouTube)

Innes Coun. Laura Dudas, whose ward includes the school, called the dome "not a normal building" and said approving it would be "precedent-setting for our city and our province."

"There's no tree that is tall enough or berm that's built big enough that would ever make a six-storey bubble acceptable by any standards," said Dudas, who voted against it.

Dome to be 'community and sports hub'

"The vision is not to build a dome, but rather a community and sports hub for the entire Orléans community," said Marc Bertrand, the school board's director of education, in defence of the project.

The dome would be used by students at nearby École secondaire catholique Garneau and École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph d'Orléans, as well as other students who could be bussed to the facility. 

Bertrand said more kids would be able to participate in sports, as the schools' current gyms "are full all the time." 

While some residents suggested the structure could be built in parks further east or west of Orléans, others shot back, saying it was important to have a centralized sports facility.

Others who endorsed the project said the dome would allow some seasonal sports to be played all year long.

"We are in a dire state in terms of being able to maintain that level of accessibility throughout the year," said Phil Johnson, president of the National Capital Tennis Association.

With files from Darren Major

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