OSEG puts 2020 edition of Christmas market on ice due to pandemic

Christmas market pic
From left to right: Mayor Jim Watson, Santa Claus and OSEG chief executive Mark Goudie at the launch of the Lansdowne Park Christmas market in 2019. File photo

Its bottom line already battered by the pandemic, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group says it’s decided to scrap this year’s edition of the Christmas market it launched to much fanfare in 2019.

OSEG, which runs the stadium and arena at Lansdowne Park and manages the retail properties at the city-owned site, said Monday that limits on the size of public gatherings and other measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus would “interfere” with spectators’ enjoyment of the event.

“The Ottawa Christmas Market, at its core, brings people together to celebrate the holiday season,” OSEG chief executive Mark Goudie said in a statement. “Unfortunately, that just isn’t possible given our current reality.”

Instead, the organization and its partners, Ottawa Tourism and Celebrate Ontario, said they will shift to a “Lights at Lansdowne” experience that will include the city’s largest Christmas tree, a canopy of lights around the Casino Lac-Leamy Plaza and other “Instagrammable elements.” The free event will open on Nov. 27.

When OSEG announced it was launching the Christmas market in 2019, Goudie said he hoped the event would eventually attract tens of thousands of visitors each year. Its cancellation is yet another blow to the organization as it looks to boost attendance and recoup its multimillion-dollar investment in Lansdowne Park.

Last week, the city’s finance committee approved a plan to extend the city’s partnership with OSEG by an extra 10 years and allow the organization to tap into reserve funds to help it cover $40 million in additional losses it says it expects to accrue over the next few years. The proposal goes to full council for a final vote on Nov. 25.

OSEG says the Christmas market – which featured food and beverage tents, musical guests and local vendors last year ​– will return to Lansdowne in 2021.