Alex Cullen: Ottawa City Council should reject Lansdowne 2.0 | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

AlexCullen's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
About the author

Former OBE Trustee (1982-88), Ottawa City Councillor (1991-94), RMOC Councillor (1991-97), MPP Ottawa West (1997-99), Ottawa City Councillor (2000-2010). Economist, former Policy Analyst NHW (1982-91), former Executive Director Council on Aging (1999-2000), former Parliamentary Assistant to MP Mike Sullivan (2011-2015). Triathlete (including 4 iron distance triathlons), 3-time winner Rudy Award. Past-President Federation of Citizens Associations.

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Alex Cullen: Ottawa City Council should reject Lansdowne 2.0

November 9, 2023
Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Canada.

City Council should reject Lansdowne 2.0 - Not only is it too rich for taxpayers, supports a private for-profit sports company (not what taxes are paid for), but it is a sinkhole for taxpayers money. 

I bring a different perspective on Lansdowne Park, having been a pre-amalgamation City of Ottawa Councillor when the City ran Lansdowne Park, and then again as a post-amalgamation City Councillor when Lansdowne 1.0 occurred. In the 1990s, the City ran Lansdowne Park and got revenue from exhibitions, conventions, concerts and sporting events (including the fabled Rough Riders games). The City never made money from Lansdowne, but it never meant to--it was a civic facility like community arenas, community centres and libraries. The Rough Riders and the 67's hockey club were occasional renters.

By 2008, the City saw the disintegration of the southside stands, the collapse of the Rough Riders football team, and the removal of the Central Canada Exhibition. City Council knew the southside stands had to be replaced, and was contemplating an international design competition to revive Lansdowne Park.

However, the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG) stepped in with an unsolicited offer to take over the site (stadium and Civic Centre arena) and bring back CFL football, provided it could benefit from retail development on the site, plus build a condo tower and some townhouses.

OSEG promised a world-class destination and future revenues to the City. Council fell for OSEG's dream.  Ten years later OSEG is back, asking for more retail development to support its business, plus a new taxpayer-funded northside stands, and more residential development. Again the promise to the City is a share of future revenues. The City never did get a share of Lansdowne 1.0's revenues (the waterfall runnith dry). 

At $419 million this is a very rich subsidy (both in dollars and in public land) to support a private for-profit sports land development company. It must be rejected.

The premises behind the proposal are dubious and the benefits are far from certain. More importantly, though, is the opportunity cost of spending over $400 million of tax dollars on this venture when there are far more important public priorities for Ottawa's taxpayers. Fixing the LRT immediately comes to mind, affordability housing is another.

To govern is to choose. There are better choices for $419 million than Lansdowne 2.0.

Alex Cullen