The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's proposal for the next phase of the revitalization of Lansdowne Park includes a new arena and concert venue, a new north-side stadium structure with more than double the current retail space underneath, and 1,200 new residential units.
OSEG's proposal, unveiled Wednesday during a news conference at TD Place Stadium, will cost an estimated $330 million but will be "tax-neutral," according to OSEG president and CEO Mark Goudie, who called it a "self-financing proposition and proposal."
The proposal follows recommendations by city staff last June that were approved by city council the following month.
Goudie said the first phase of the plan involves moving the current Civic Centre arena from its current location under the north-side stadium stands to the east end zone of TD Place, where it would continue to act as a venue for both sports and indoor concerts.
The standalone arena, which would remain home of the OSEG-owned Ottawa 67's and the Ottawa BlackJacks basketball team, would be reduced to 5,500 seats and would host "world-class arts and entertainment, concerts and events geared to a facility of this size," according to OSEG.
It would have suites opening onto the field and a green roof that would meld with the existing berm that overlooks the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park.
New north-side stands
The second phase would involve a complete replacement of the north-side stands, with 11,100 seats on two levels (a reduction from the current 14,000), plus two "fan decks" for mingling and field-level "bunker suites," Goudie said.
The new north-side stands will be more upright than the current structure, which architect Barry Hobin called inefficient and "a total space hog."
"It's not a people building, and it's barely a sports building," said Hobin, whose firm has been tapped to design the municipally owned elements of the project, including the arena and stadium.
Goudie agreed, calling the 1967 Civic Centre and north-side stands "functionally obsolete. They're at the end of their life and need to be replaced."
The city has already spent $135 million to renovate the south-side stands at TD Place as part of the first phase of the Lansdowne Park revitalization.
The OSEG-owned Ottawa Redblacks and Atlético Ottawa would continue to call TD Place home.
More retail space
Overhauling the Civic Centre also creates an opportunity for more retail and mixed-use space, from the current 40,000 square feet to 100,000.
Towering above the new north side structure will be 1,200 new residential units, including both rental apartments and condos. Preliminary drawings provided by OSEG show three highrise buildings dominating the centre of Lansdowne Park.
It's not a people building, and it's barely a sports building. - Architect Barry Hobin on north-side stands
Ten per cent of the new residential units will be affordable, Goudie promised.
The city will earn revenue from selling the "air rights" to those residential towers, as well as the additional taxes it will reap from commercial tenants. The rest will come from "ticket fees and
direct cash distributions to the City from the Lansdowne Partnership," according to OSEG.
As they have throughout the Lansdowne Park revitalization process, speakers at Wednesday's news conference contrasted the new venue with the "concrete jungle" that existed before, with one participant claiming the Glebe site was a "sketchy" place to be before the renovation.
Construction could start this year
Goudie said in designing "Lansdowne 2.0," OSEG and its partners have stuck to the guiding principles laid out by the city more than a decade ago.
"What this is about is place-making and city-building," he said.
According to OSEG, construction on the new arena/event centre could begin later this year and wrap up before 2025. Phased construction of the residential portion could begin in 2024 and last until 2029, while the stadium portion of the project would begin in 2025 and open in 2027.
Goudie noted that before the first phase of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment was completed in 2014, the site would attract just 250,000 visitors a year. Since then, the public-private partnership between OSEG and the city has drawn 20 million visitors, including 4.3 million in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed live events.
"I think that's quite remarkable," Goudie said. "Lansdowne is a success and I'm really proud of what we've been able to do with that."
'The next logical step'
Erin Benjamin, president and CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association, applauded OSEG's proposal at Wednesday's new conference, saying the mid-size event centre will fill a much-needed gap in the city's entertainment infrastructure.
"These facilities are aging and the infrastructure simply doesn't meet the needs of musicians and artists, and as a result, tours pass right by and we are missing out," Benjamin said.
Sueling Ching, president and CEO of the Ottawa Board of Trade, characterized OSEG's proposal as a necessary step toward economic recovery after the pandemic.
"We need to take what is functionally an obsolete facility that is struggling with compliance and ongoing revenues, and turn it into a world-class, eco-conscious, inclusive entertainment and lifestyle hub that will have far-reaching economic impact for generations to come," said Ching, who also spoke at Wednesday's news conference. "We move forward now or we risk getting left behind.
WATCH | Mayor says revitalization project is vanquishing the Lansdowne 'ghost town':
At city hall on Wednesday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson promised a full debate on OSEG's proposal, but indicated he's in favour with certain aspects of it.
"The next logical step is to replace the north-side stands and [build] a revitalized Civic Centre, events centre, that is much more in tune with what musicians and travelling artists need — a smaller, more compact venue."
Ottawa city council will consider the proposal in May.