The revitalized Lansdowne project is right on track to begin opening in a few days, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group told the city’s finance and economic development committee on Thursday.
TD Place will be the first part of the project to officially open. That will happen July 9, nine days ahead of the Ottawa RedBlacks’ home opener on July 18 against the Toronto Argonauts.
Mayor Jim Watson said that opening game does present some logistical hurdles.
“The biggest challenge we have is trying to get 24,000 people in in one fell swoop, so I think OSEG has done a good job to work very hard to ensure people understand there is no parking on game day,” he said. “We’ll do our best to get over that first particular game and learn on how we can improve.”
Two days later, 15,000 fans are expected for the Ottawa Fury’s first North American Soccer League match at the new park.
Aug. 16 will mark the opening of Lansdowne Park, the 18-acre public green space. There will be a community event marking the heritage of Lansdowne starting at 11 a.m.
Retail tenants will be ready for customers in the fall, and residents will start moving in early in 2015.
Mr. Watson said Thursday’s presentation was a chance to reminisce about all the battles along the way to getting the job done.
“We went through three or four lawsuits and there were a lot of angry community meetings, but I think the deal our council signed is a good one and it’s going to basically turn acre upon acre of asphalt into a really top-notch destination for tourists and residents,” he said.
Mr. Watson said there will always be naysayers, but as he learned very quickly in politics, you can’t please all the people all the time.
“As I said at council, if we waited for perfection,” he said, “we’d have to tear down another part of the building because it would be deteriorating and we’d continue to lose over $3 million a year.”
With word clothing retailer Winners will be one of the new tenants in the fall comes more grumbling from some who say Lansdowne is just another shopping mall.
But Mr. Watson said OSEG has exceeded its target of 40 per cent new or unique-to-the-market shops.
“I would argue it’s as good a mix as you have in the Glebe right now. There are … lots of chains in the Glebe, but it doesn’t take away from the fact there are a lot of small unique businesses also in the Glebe,” he said.
Lansdowne will be a hot spot for the city well after the football season ends. The city’s third refrigerated outdoor skating rink will open there in the fall, and it will be a key site for Winterlude 2015.
There have also been more than 20 groups looking to host events at Lansdowne, with several already confirmed.
The Ottawa Farmers’ Market will return next year and there could be a seven-day-a-week market in the new Aberdeen Square and a weekend indoor market from November to April. Council will consider the licence for final approval July 9.