Driven to succeed: Pop-up drive-in at TD Place sells out in barely an hour

Lansdowne Park
TD Place stadium will be converted into a drive-in theatre for four nights starting Thursday. File photo

Football is back at TD Place ​– on the big screen, that is ​– and it’s playing to sellout crowds.

While the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks won’t be battling opponents on the field any time soon due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group said Wednesday the team’s home stadium at Lansdowne Park will welcome the public back later this week as a drive-in movie theatre.

Fittingly, the four-night engagement kicks off Thursday – the same night the 2020 CFL season was originally slated to begin – with a showing of Remember the Titans, which depicts the true story of a coach’s efforts to integrate a high school football team in Virginia in the early 1970s. 

Jack Sparrow fans will love Friday night’s movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, while Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy goes Saturday and the four-day run finishes up on Sunday night with Star Wars: the Last Jedi. All shows start at 8 p.m.

Clearly, movie buffs in the capital are itching to get their cinematic fix – OSEG said all four shows sold out in just over an hour after being announced Wednesday morning, with 56 cars per night allowed on the TD Place turf.

“This obviously struck a positive chord for people who’ve been cooped up since mid-March,” OSEG president and CEO Mark Goudie said in a statement. “We look forward to the day when we’re back in full operation and able to welcome thousands of people to a full calendar of sports and entertainment. At least this is a start.” 

Tickets cost $30 per vehicle, with a limit of five occupants per car. Guests will be allowed to bring their own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, and no food or drinks will be sold on site.

With public gatherings across the country banned in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the CFL announced last month the league would not begin the regular season in June as originally planned. Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the season would instead start in September at the earliest, and there remains a possibility the entire 2020 campaign will be wiped out.

The new offering comes as OSEG – which owns the Redblacks and manages the stadium, arena and retail and commercial spaces at Lansdowne Park – looks for new ways of attracting more visitors to the site, which has seen lower revenues and higher costs than expected. 

The organization launched a Christmas market last year and floated a proposal to take over the operation of all public spaces at Lansdowne in a bid to generate more revenue. OSEG ultimately withdrew the proposal in the face of opposition from local residents.

OSEG spokesman Chris Hofley said Wednesday afternoon the organization is “hoping to have other events on the turf soon,” with details still to be determined.