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'This is not a bailout:' Committee approves help for Lansdowne Park management

The pandemic has vaporized revenues for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which asked the city for permission to borrow from a reserve fund.
2019-06-12 TD Place Lansdowne Park
Aerial of TD Place and Lansdowne, June 12, 2019. Mike Vlasveld/

A powerful City Hall committee has approved a plan that would allow Lansdowne Park management to temporarily dip into an important reserve fund to help tide it over during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to extend the 30-year public-private partnership for another decade.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) presented its case to the Finance and Economic Development Committee, Thursday, during which CEO Mark Goudie explained that OSEG had lost $11 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, partly due to lower-than-expected Redblacks ticket sales.

"The first thing I want to address, is that there's been speculation and comments about this being a bailout," said Steve Kanellakos, city manager, briefing committee members on the proposal. "This is not a bailout."

The report before the committee, developed by city staff, recommended allowing OSEG to borrow from a lifecycle maintenance fund, intended to pay for the replacement of key assets and infrastructure as it ages. Kanellakos said that the proposal would not involve putting any more city funds into Lansdowne's operations.

"The city...has not contributed any funds to the Lansdowne partnership since the operations commenced," Kanellakos told committee members.

The committee, led by Mayor Jim Watson, unanimously approved the Lansdowne proposal after hearing hours of public delegations in favour of the deal and raising concerns about whether the plan was the right one.

"The city invested $210 million, all of the land, operates the urban park, and it's going to get no return for another ten years?" asked June Creelman, with the Glebe Community Association. "I think we have to discuss: is that the best thing and have we had enough time and information to reflect on that?"

The plan is now set to go before city council for a vote, later this month.

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