Lansdowne Revitalization Carries City-Wide Benefits
Ottawa City Council has voted in favour of continuing down a path which will ultimately result in a much-needed replacement of the 55-year-old City-owned sports and entertainment facilities at Lansdowne. The proposal brought forward by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), who partnered with the City on the revitalization of Lansdowne back in 2010, calls for a new standalone event centre, new north stadium stands and additional retail space configured in a podium that would form the base for new residential units.
Under the proposed project, dubbed ’Lansdowne 2.0,’ the cost of the replacement of these City assets would be $330 million. The entire amount would be generated from incremental revenues to the city generated by the sale of air rights and a portion of property taxes associated with the new residential and retail space at Lansdowne, as well as from ticket fees and direct cash amounts paid to the City from the Lansdowne Partnership.
The City is also proposing enhancements to the public space and programming they are responsible for at Lansdowne.
Next steps for Lansdowne 2.0 will include extensive city-wide consultation aimed at getting the general public’s thoughts and suggestions on the proposal, which are expected to result in refinements to the current project scope and proposal. The City has also earmarked funds for consulting work and studies that will be needed to bring a final proposal back to the new City Council in the first half of 2023 for final approval.
Lansdowne has been an important local destination throughout its storied 175-year history. Brought back to life in 2014 as a result of the City and OSEG partnership, it has become an important City and region-wide economic contributor.
“Lansdowne now generates between $270 and $530 million in economic benefit annually,” says Mark Goudie, president and chief executive officer of OSEG. “This project alone, including the residential component, will generate about $1 billion of economic activity, and result in 2,700 people years worth of jobs, so it is a major development. When finished, Lansdowne will employ another 600 on top of the current 4,000 employees that work here,” he adds.
With Lansdowne 2.0, OSEG will be building on the success of its 2014 revitalization.
“Before 2014, Lansdowne had become a wasteland of asphalt and old exhibition era buildings and partially-condemned stadium. It was a embarrassing blight in a highly visible part of our community and in a major capital city,” recalls Goudie.
Since 2014, Lansdowne has re-emerged as Ottawa’s gathering place and the hub of sports and entertainment in our region, says Goudie, who cites the successful return of CFL football to Ottawa with the Ottawa Redblacks, the long-term financial security provided for the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League, and the introduction of two new professional teams – the Atlético Ottawa soccer team which competes in Canada’s Premier League, and the Ottawa BlackJacks of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
The reopening of the Stadium and Arena at TD Place has also allowed Ottawa to host other key sporting events, including the 2017 Grey Cup game, the NHL’s 100th anniversary outdoor classic between the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens in 2017, and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup of soccer.
“We’ve also had multiple Canadian and international figure skating and curling championships, and we introduced Ottawa’s first Christmas market to Lansdowne. On top of that, there have been over a thousand other events including concerts, comedy shows and other events,” adds Goudie.
However, in spite of the successes achieved over the past eight years, further modernization is required. Lansdowne 2.0 provides the city with the opportunity to make two major improvements that, arguably, should have been included as a part of the 2014 project. In addition to the new sports and entertainment facilities that will continue to allow Lansdowne to retain and attract world-class events and keep residents and tourists entertained for decades to come, additional residential density on site for people will better support 15 minute communities, says Goudie.
“Back when the redevelopment of Lansdowne was being planned there was an overly optimistic hope that the facilities would last another couple of decades. However, eight years of experience of what were never terribly well maintained city facilities have led engineers and stadium consultants to conclude that they are at their ’end of life’ and ’functionally obsolete’ and need to be replaced,” he explains.
The Lansdowne 2.0 process began back in 2020 with the City Council asking their staff to work with OSEG to review if the best path forward was “do nothing for now,” or repair or replace the aging facilities. In 2021, City Council determined that a replacement strategy was the most viable and responsible path forward.
Major elements in the Lansdowne 2.0 proposal include a new 5,500 seat Event Centre to host the Ottawa 67’s and the Ottawa BlackJacks, along with other world-class arts and entertainment concerts and events, and new North Stadium stands for TD Place to seat 11,200 and hold a total of over 12,000 spectators for Ottawa Redblacks and Atlético Ottawa games. These facilities will also provide greater accessibility for individuals with a disability, and updated sustainability building standards in terms of energy efficiency, among other features.
The proposal also includes the addition of 59,000 square feet of mixed-use retail space in a podium contained within the current footprint of the old Civic Centre, which would form the podium base for an additional 1,200 rental and owned residential units, of which 120 units will be affordable housing to be developed with a local social housing partner.
Goudie acknowledged that there is a vocal segment of population who, philosophically, doesn’t agree with public-private partnerships and will never support a further evolution of the Lansdowne partnership. However, Goudie and his team look forward to speaking to the broader Ottawa population over the upcoming months. “The city approved $8 million to continue with the studies and consulting work. Next steps will include an extensive public consultation process that will help OSEG and the city refine our proposal and recommendation on what is next for Lansdowne.
“This will all come back to the new term of Council around this time next year,” Goudie says.
“We’re extremely proud of what we’ve been able to build with our City partner, which has transformed Lansdowne back into ‘Ottawa’s Gathering Place,’ he adds. “We look forward to continuing to provide exceptional hospitality and continuing to make memories for our guests and visitors for generations to come.”