Mayor asks OSEG to keep teams in Ottawa another 10 years

·3 min read

Mayor Jim Watson wants a guarantee that the Ottawa Redblacks and 67's keep playing at Lansdowne Park's TD Place until 2032, according to an open letter he wrote to the business group that owns the teams.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) runs the commercial sector at Lansdowne and owns some of the sports teams that play there. In its 30-year deal with the city, OSEG had promised to keep the teams at the stadium until 2022.

But last month, OSEG — which had been struggling to get enough foot traffic to Lansdowne and lost $11 million last year — said it needed help from the city, as the COVID-19 pandemic had decimated its revenue stream. The group has asked the city to extend the partnership for an additional 10 years to 2054, in order to give OSEG more time to recoup some of its losses.

After a nine-hour discussion on Nov. 13, members of the finance and economic development committee approved the changes to the partnership, but the contentious issue is set to go to full council next Wednesday.

Among the many speakers at the meeting, representatives of the Glebe Community Association and other public delegates expressed concern about what would happen if the sports teams, which attracted thousands on game days in pre-COVID-19 times, no longer played at Lansdowne.

Watson's letter, which he wrote with Coun. Mathieu Fleury in his role as sports commissioner, asks for a response from OSEG by the Dec. 9 council meeting.

No one from OSEG was immediately available for comment.

Menard drafted his own motion

Coun. Shawn Menard, in whose ward Lansdowne Park is situated, called out the mayor on social media for taking credit for his work. Menard said he had written several motions about the Lansdowne situation for council next week, including one to keep the teams in Ottawa.

The draft motion, which CBC has seen, calls for any proposed changes to the Lansdowne partnership to "include an agreement by all parties to add an additional ten years to the guarantee that the Ottawa REDBLACKS and Ottawa 67's would remain in Ottawa until after 2030, and ensuring that Ottawa residents will be able to continue cheering on these beloved teams."

Menard said he shared the draft motion with several other councillors in a briefing, and gave it to the clerk's office to distribute to "relevant parties, staff and OSEG."

However, the mayor said that he'd been "working closely with OSEG on this issue" since the committee meeting and neither he nor Fleury had been made aware of the motion by Menard.

Watson said in an email that he is pleased that Coun. Menard supports asking OSEG to commit to fielding the Redblacks and the Ottawa 67s for an additional 10 years — a move intended to ensure the long-term success of the Lansdowne Park Partnership.

"Further, the letter to OSEG, aimed at clarifying OSEG's position, in no way precludes the ward councillor from bringing a motion to Council on this matter."