Ottawa

Residents question extra 10 years for OSEG at Lansdowne

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's requests for help at Lansdowne Park will go to a city committee Thursday for endorsement, but many residents are concerned more financial problems lie ahead for the partnership.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's requests for help to go to city committee Thursday

Under the city's 30-year, public-private partnership with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, OSEG covers operating deficits and maintenance, and runs the stadium and commercial sector. Many residents worry more financial problems lie ahead for the partnership. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's (OSEG) requests for help at Lansdowne Park go to a city committee Thursday for endorsement, but many residents worry more financial problems lie ahead for the partnership.

OSEG — which runs the arena and stadium at TD Place and Lansdowne's commercial areas as part of a private-public partnership with the city — expects to inject an extra $40 million to cover losses while the pandemic benches the Ottawa 67s and Redblacks sports teams, and Lansdowne shops and restaurants struggle.

OSEG's owners have asked to tap into $4.7 million they put in a reserve fund for maintaining the parking garage and aging stadium.

The Glebe Community Association wants the seven-year-old redevelopment at Lansdowne to succeed, and its representatives will be among dozens signed up to have their virtual say at the finance and economic development committee meeting.

We'd like to see the city hold some cards in its pocket in case the situation deteriorates further.- Anthony Carricato, Glebe Community Association

"We absolutely support the need for emergency short-term financial assistance for OSEG," said Anthony Carricato, who chairs the association's Lansdowne committee and is also a citizen transit commissioner.

The association is much more concerned, however, by OSEG's other requests: extending their deal with the City of Ottawa by a decade, to 2054, and pushing off the date when the city would share in retail rents. 

"We'd like to see the city hold some cards in its pocket in case the situation deteriorates further over the year ahead," said Carricato.

'Skin in the game'

Others question why the city is rushing to give OSEG what it asks, instead of taking time to do due diligence on whether the complicated public-private deal is sustainable for decades to come.

They doubt OSEG's latest troubles are only pandemic-related, because the partnership has yet to finish a year without a deficit.

"It's an insult to the citizens of Ottawa to use COVID[-19] relief as a cover ... to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse," said Nancy Lawand, a former public service executive who lived in the Glebe for more than 30 years.

Business space for lease at Ottawa's Lansdowne Park in November 2020. OSEG asked to tap into $4.7 million they put in a reserve fund for maintaining the parking garage and aging stadium. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

She feels the Lansdowne agreement has lacked transparency and accountability all along. 

"The last council that approved the whole thing never got an option — it was OSEG or nothing. I think it's time for some options," said Lawand.

Despite unanswered questions, Glebe resident Chris Stoney expects the finance committee will "cut a deal" with the sports team owners.

"Certainly the mayor and many of the councillors who voted for this deal in the first place do have skin in the game," said Stoney, a professor of urban policy at Carleton University. "There is a political cost if Lansdowne is to fail." 

Stoney wants council members to keep open minds as they listen to dozens of public delegations, and extend the Lansdowne agreement only if it is best for the city.

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