Q: You were initially opposed to the redevelopment of Lansdowne. Why are you now inclined to support the plan?
A: When I was briefed on Lansdowne shortly after I was elected, I had many questions about investing in Lansdowne when there are so many other priorities. For example, I’m acutely aware of the challenges the City has in providing adequate housing for our most vulnerable residents. Alta Vista has repeatedly hosted hundreds of unhoused individuals in our limited community centres. Aging infrastructure in our ward—from roads and sidewalks to sewers, parks, and recreation facilities—are also blatant reminders of the investments needed in our community. However, after many months of discussing the Lansdowne file, including meetings with staff and the review of thousands of documents, I now see the potential for Lansdowne to become a financially sustainable, accessible, state-of-the-art destination that attracts more visitors to sports, cultural and community events, adding to residents’ quality of life and growing our local economy.
I now understand why in July 2021, the previous Council adopted staff recommendations in the Report: the Lansdowne Park Partnership: Path to Sustainability and Next Steps. Three options on how to best manage the City’s assets at Lansdowne were explored in the Report. The former Council unanimously supported the option to demolish and replace the arena and stadium—a recommendation made by several engineering reports undertaken over the years that were also included in the Report. Subsequent to this Council decision, the former Council approved the Lansdowne Partnership Sustainability Plan and Implementation Report – City Council – June 08, 2022 (escribemeetings.com) in June 2022.
Q : Although you’re inclined to support Lansdowne 2.0, are there areas of the plan that concern you?
A: Of particular concern is the net cost to taxpayers which is estimated at $95.2M paid over many years. The prospect of taking on an overall debt of $312.7M is daunting. While some have expressed concerns about how the City would finance the project (using debt financing), long-term debt is an important source of capital financing that enables the City to grow and maintain its assets in a state of good repair. Examples of projects that have used this type of financing include LRT Stages 1 and 2, the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel, and Lansdowne 1.0.
At this time, Council is being asked to provide the authority to spend the remainder of the $8M previously granted by the former Council, and a new amount of $10M for detailed design. City staff will return to Council with the request for approval of the final procurement acceptance and awarding the contract to build the Event Centre and North Side Stands. The decision will be made by Council to accept the final procurement price and award the contract.
Q: There are many accessibility issues at Lansdowne that need to be addressed. Will they be considered as part of decision making?
A: With 22 percent of Canada’s population identifying as having a disability, and over 4 million people visiting each year, city-owned facilities should be accessible to everyone. As the Accessibility Advisory Committee Council Liaison, it’s important to me, and to my Council colleagues, that the arena and north stands at Lansdowne be fully accessible. Based on a delegation at the committee meeting last week, accessibility advocate Marnie Peters agreed with the recommendations that the current configuration of the north stands and arena cannot be rebuilt to be accessible.
Q: Are there environmental concerns about the existing buildings at Lansdowne?
A: As the vice-Chair of the Environment Committee, I share the concerns were voiced by the former Council regarding the environmental status of the existing buildings at Lansdowne. Their degradation was part of the reason why the former Council voted unanimously to demolish and replace the stands. For Lansdowne 1.0, all the new buildings, pathways, plazas, and green spaces were designed and built to a LEED Stage 3 silver certification. In comparison, the Civic Centre and north side stands were built to 1967 standards. As such, they are not energy efficient, resulting in increased operating costs. There are many energy and cost inefficiencies in operating the current arena. For example, the arena’s mechanical infrastructure is larger than needed for a venue of 5,000 to 6,000 seats. This results in more expensive operating costs making smaller events more difficult to host cost effectively. Other environmental issues include a lack of insulation in the roof and window envelope, and the insufficient exhaust of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide which creates persistent mold outbreaks. Many of these issues have resulted in cancelled or compromised bookings of the arena.
Q: Why does the City need to maintain a relationship with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group?
A: The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) has a leasehold agreement to operate and maintain the City-owned assets. All revenues, expenditures, financing, lifecycle, and capital costs are incurred by the Limited Lansdowne Partnership (LLP). OSEG must fund any negative cashflows. To date, they have funded $160.5M and have been paid back by $23.5M.
While individuals have asked why we simply cannot exit the partnership, it’s important to note that the Master Limited Partnership Agreement was signed on October 12, 2012. If the City were to exit the partnership, it would be extremely complicated. If the City terminated the contract, the City would, at a minimum, have to payback OSEG for the contributed equity of $137M plus interest accrued to date of $71M, the fair market value of the retail lease. The agreement is very complex and there are several terms and conditions related to the dissolution of the partnership that would take time and incur legal costs to resolve. There are also outstanding loans for the arena of $16Mas well as the retail of $120M outstanding. OSEG is currently funding approximately $8M in annual deficits that would be the responsibility of the City going forward and would likely increase without redevelopment of the site. It is not a simple matter to terminate the agreement.
French translation to follow shortly.