Lansdowne redevelopment should have included north-side stands, mayor admits

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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson admits the north-side stands and the arena underneath should have been rebuilt less than a decade ago. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson admits the north-side stands and the arena underneath should have been rebuilt less than a decade ago. (Francis Ferland/CBC - image credit)

The City of Ottawa should have replaced the north-side stands of TD Place stadium, and the arena underneath, during the massive redevelopment of Lansdowne less than a decade ago, Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday.

Watson's comments come a day after the city's finance and economic development committee agreed to consider a plan to rebuild the 54-year-old concrete structure, which a recent report confirmed has a long list of problems.

The city signed a decades-long deal with its private partner, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), to revitalize Lansdowne in 2012. At the time, the city spent $135 million to redevelop the stadium, which is publicly owned. The bulk of that money went toward replacing the south-side stands, which had been deemed unsafe.

But the north-side stands, and the Civic Centre underneath it, weren't refurbished.

"When we did the revitalization, we probably, in hindsight, should have done the north-side stands-Civic Centre renovation at the same time," Watson told reporters after the city council meeting.

"And we also recognize, now, that we also need more people to live on the site."

Brian Morris/CBC
Brian Morris/CBC

The mayor also didn't rule out spending more public money on the city-owned stadium complex if the reconstruction eventually goes ahead.

"That's obviously one of the options that we have to look at because when you own the facility, you obviously own the responsibility to maintain it," he said.

"The bottom line is, the city owns those assets so ultimately we're responsible for their upgrade."

Full council still needs to give the formal go-ahead to explore the proposal to rebuild the stands complex and it will be months before OSEG comes back with a business plan.

CBC
CBC

The reconstruction will cost tens of millions of dollars, and it's unclear how the project will be funded. Under the Lansdowne partnership plan, OSEG pays for the ongoing operating costs of the stadium, but the building itself belongs to the city.

Options to defray the costs of construction include adding housing on top of the new structure — which would also bring more people to Lansdowne — and applying a ticket surcharge for events there.

The mayor admitted those measures may not be enough to cover the costs.

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