Stop Flushing Money Down The Lansdowne Toilet

Let’s start here. The late Eugene Melnyk had a franchise in his back pocket from the fledgling Major League Soccer operation and came to the Ottawa City Council for help building a stadium for his club.

Council opted for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group which had a franchise in the always-struggling Canadian Football League.

The Redblacks, if the team could find a buyer, could be worth $5 million or if OSEG were desperate to sell … nothing.

Austin FC in the MLS is valued by Forbes at $680 million. The Texas outfit thrives in a city that is but 30,000 people short of Ottawa’s population. Ottawa would be visited now and then by Inter Miami featuring Messi, arguably the most famous athlete in the world. The Redblacks host …? … name five players in the Canadian Football League.

Now the OSEG offer, which usurped an international design competition approved by council, featured highrise residential and shopping-centre commercial.

So if you are wondering just how successful Lansdowne has been, take a look at the tail of the tape above and measure the opportunity cost of this woeful project.

We could go on about the ridiculousness of former mayor Jim Watson opting for independent league baseball over a Double-A Toronto Blue Jays franchise that would have featured Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Craig Biggio but that would take us a long way from Lansdowne. But one sentence can say it all. If you can play ball, you’re not playing independent baseball.

The above shows you how bad our city councils have been. Their lack of good judgment is holding our community back. Our municipal leadership opts for the petty over the dynamic. And then tries to sell petty like it is major league. It insults the intelligence of a very smart community like Ottawa … a city that is much more intelligent than its municipal government.

If the city were a tech company, it would create a startup predicated on solving the mystery of the flashing 12 on the front of your Betamax. The city and Lansdowne are to Mozart what Flatt and Scruggs are to Mozart.

Take Lansdowne for example. It is a partnership. The city, on its best years, takes $1 million out of Lansdowne on soon-to-be two-thirds of a billion dollars of investment. Other years zero. Other years the city gives the owners $4.5 million. This is not a partnership. Were this a human relationship, it would never have been consummated, never gone to divorce court, never got engaged, never exchanged rings. Just a quick peck on the cheek after a first date followed by a dismissive “see you later buddy. Don’t let the door hit you on the butt as you leave.”

A least Ottawa Senators owner Melnyk would have paid a spot of cash of rent for the stadium.

So now that we have put Lansdowne in perspective (taking the most valuable piece of land in downtown Ottawa and turning it into a money-losing black hole), let’s look at why Lansdowne doesn’t work and will never work.

Try location, transportation, product and the neighbourhood.

The location is abysmal. No rapid transit, poor car transportation and insufficient parking. Compare this with the Rogers Centre in Toronto. It is served by conventional rail, Go Trains, the subway and is near the convergence of two major freeways. Even Billy Bishop Airport is nearby if you’re inclined to travel that way.

Lansdowne has buses caught in a traffic jam. There’s no cure for that.

So why travel to Lansdowne when Bayshore Shopping Centre is near the convergence of two major freeways, light rail (maybe) will be there and the Transitway serves it. There’s parking, too. Free.

So let’s move on to product. A shopping centre downtown. What could go wrong? We have shopping centres all over town in the age of Amazon. Those operations are struggling from online shopping let alone a project downtown with myriad problems outlined above.

And then there’s the neighbourhood. The Glebe. Yes, the Glebinistas. They walk down Bank Street in the latest of casual design, buy white wine and wicker, have 1.2 dogs on a leash, procreate 1.7 kids who they love less than their dogs. Conversation is punctuated by outrage over the skyrocketing cost of quiche. How will we afford the next Audi?

So for the Glebites, a shopping centre is so 70 years ago. It is a brown shoe on a tuxedo. A Glebian being seen in Lansdowne could get them thrown out of the chess club. Does Shoppers Drug Mart sell sandals? And who has time for Lansdowne when a polo match beckons?

Furthermore, the city and Lansdowne listened politely to an outraged mob of neighbours who didn’t want the project and then did nothing the Glebers wanted. So why go to the shopping centre down the street? Particularly after a drunk emptied his bladder on your front lawn after a Redblacks game. The neighborhood, the prime customer of Lansdowne, is alienated.

In the early days of aviation, inventors might have built a lead flying machine. It didn’t get off the ground. So did the inventors say lets put another $400 million into this lead plane that won’t fly, never could have flown and won’t ever fly in the future? No, they moved onto fabric and balsa wood.

So let’s put another $400 million into the lead plane of projects, Lansdowne. Lansdowne 2.0 won’t fly, never could have flown and won’t ever fly in the future.

Please, make the best of what you have now, which isn’t much, and stop pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into this pecuniary sinkhole. One of the ways you discover if a product will sell is to sell it. Lansdowne was put on the market but people didn’t buy. More Lansdowne won’t sell either.

Like who is making money out of Lansdowne? It’s not me. None of my friends and relatives are. It’s not the city. Somebody must be making money out of Lansdowne. Why else would they go back to the trough?

There comes a time when you must cut your losses. That time is now.

More Lansdowne just means more unsuccessful Lansdowne. Who needs that at any cost?

Our tax money has been taken hostage. Let our money go.

Ken Gray


Lester Flatt And Earl Scruggs - Ballad Of Jed Clampett(Theme From The Beverly Hillbillies)

Flatt and Scruggs not playing Mozart.


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3 Responses

  1. Bruce says:

    In addition, look at how the Senators hockey team, the Ottawa 67’s and the first iteration of AAA baseball arrived in Ottawa. Not on the backs of the taxpayer but because Businessmen of all walks of life in Ottawa invested their money. Rod Bryden, Brian McGarry, Jim Durrell, Bruce Firestone, Cyril Leeder, Howard Darwin spent time energy and money of their own to see pro sports teams play before Ottawa folks. Yes they asked you and I to SHARE in the dream but were prepared to pay for the use of public facilities or BUILD their own with no financial guarantees from city hall. I have a LYNX jacket and more than one Sens sweater! I support private enterprise which I like, but am NOT in favour of supporting enterprise living off the public purse!

  2. Andrew says:

    The only prediction we can make:
    Someone will buy the land, get new buildings, and all the income they generate, and then the city taxpayer will get a bill for the rest. City taxes will go up and Ottawa cost of living will increase due to City debt load.

    This is known, the PWHL/67’s arena will be reduced in size 45%, down to 5500 seats. It looks like they will need to move.

  3. The Voter says:

    How dare you debase the music of Flatt & Scruggs by trying to create some kind of parallel between them and Ottawa Council and Lansdowne? Regardless of how you may perceive their music, they’ve done nothing to deserve such a putdown. I’m sure many of your readers, at least those of a certain age, can sing along with “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” but don’t know a single tune that Council or Lansdowne has carried successfully.

    So what happened to the soccer and baseball teams that could have been ours? You missed an important factor in the loss of both.

    You only need to look at the pettiness of one man to find a huge cause of the loss of both soccer and baseball in this town. He’s the same man at whose door can be laid a large part of the fiasco that is LRT and a lot of other crap that has gone on at the City. Jim Watson had a hate on for two men and it wouldn’t have mattered if they had brought the proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs into Andrew Haydon Hall. Eugene Melnyk and Rick Chiarelli were involved in the proposals and that alone was enough for Watson to ensure that they went nowhere. We would be a baseball and a soccer town had Watson not been so small-minded, egotistical and vengeful.

    The fact that they knew what they were talking about and had both done their homework was irrelevant to Watson. Being a klutz (snowmobiling, anyone?) and not sports-inclined, Watson never understood how sports fit with the city or why people were so enamoured of it. Even in the Sens most successful times, he didn’t get behind them until the last minute at the point when he could bask in some of their reflected glory.

    He’s not a sports person and he ensured that we wouldn’t be either. I suspect that a part of his unfailing support for OSEG has something to do with the proponents knowing how to flatter his ego and play on his need to be ‘in with the in-crowd’. There are, of course, other less savoury possibilities but let’s leave them for another day.

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