Lansdowne compromise could halt OSEG takeover

A last-minute compromise passed at city hall Tuesday will slow — or possibly even shelve — a controversial proposal to let Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) take over programming of public spaces at Lansdowne Park.

"We're giving all parties the time that they need for an informed and intelligent discussion to make Lansdowne Park into a greater people place than it already is," said Coun. Matthew Luloff, who moved the motion after working on the issue with Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Shawn Menard, who represents the area around Lansdowne.

It was later passed unanimously.

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OSEG already runs TD Place stadium and arena, owns the three sports teams based there and controls the commercial areas at Lansdowne.

Less than two weeks ago, the city manager Steve Kanellakos recommended the city accept OSEG's offer to enter negotiations for it to oversee the public areas of Lansdowne.

The move quickly drew backlash, with 500 people attending a community meeting a few days after the report was released.

On Tuesday, opponents of the plan packed the council chamber while more than 40 public delegations were signed up to speak before the city's finance and economic development committee. But before any of them were called up to speak, Luloff tabled his motion.

City staff are now to "undertake exploratory discussions related to the day-to-day booking and coordination of operations of the Lansdowne site," but only after public and stakeholder consultations on the community programming aspects of the proposal.

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The motion also explicitly states that "the Aberdeen Square and Aberdeen Pavilion will continue to be used as the outdoor and seasonal indoor venues for the Ottawa Farmers Market." OSEG CEO Mark Goudie has said publicly that he is supportive of the farmers market, which is successful, popular and brought 159,000 visitors to Lansdowne last year. 

The motion calls for any new plan, including a proposal to reject OSEG's offer to take over the public areas of Lansdowne, to be brought back to the finance committee next spring.

The committee is hearing from public delegates, most of whom agree with the new plan, before voting on the motion.

15-month net loss

The Lansdowne redevelopment has not been as successful as originally hoped. By the end of the 30-year financial partnership between OSEG and the city, known as the "waterfall," the city will make no money, while OSEG expects to lose tens of millions.

From January 2018 to March 2019, OSEG posted a net loss of $12.7 million, although it's difficult to compare those results to the group's $7.9 million net loss of 2017 — the year TD Place hosted the Grey Cup — because the latest figures reflect a change in OSEG's fiscal calendar.