Recently the issue of the P3 (public-private partnership) at Lansdowne Park has come to the fore. The Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG) has, like other businesses, been suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A City staff report to the City’s Finance & Economic Development Committee (FEDCO) concentrates heavily on the impacts of COVID-19 on the OSEG business, and the viability of the current business plan in place at Lansdowne, which sees revenue from the retail stores on City land plus the operation of the City-owned TD Place stadium and Civic Centre support the football, soccer and other sports franchises at Lansdowne.
For your full information, the mitigation proposal includes an extension of the partnership with the City for an additional ten years, modifying some of the terms of the retail rent agreement, giving OSEG one-time access to life cycle funds during the pandemic and continuing to pay for lifecycle repairs as needed while re-establishing the plan for future lifecycle contributions. City staff are recommending that the above amendments to the agreement be supported by the establishment of a Council Sponsors Group that will involve a public consultation to inform an upcoming report.
Because the City of Ottawa and many of the businesses at Lansdowne will be heavily impacted by OSEG’s inability to sustain the current partnership without these mitigation measures, the decision will be a very challenging one for members of City Council.
In spite of the above considerations, I am concerned about the use of taxpayer dollars being used for privately-owned projects such as OSEG at Lansdowne – is this the best use of City funds/facilities? I do not believe that the City of Ottawa should be financially responsible for the success or failure of private enterprises.
I believe this decision should receive public consultation from Ottawa residents including the surrounding community as well as the general community of Ottawa taxpayers.
While a Sponsorship Group composed of City Councillors to review this project is one of the recommendations, for me it is important to engage with residents across the city on the future of this important city asset and ensure it addresses the needs of our city.
Media release from the Finance and Economic Development Committee
On Thursday, November 12th, City’s Finance and Economic Development Committee approved a report outlining potential support for Lansdowne Park to address both short-term pandemic-related impacts and the long-term viability of the site.
Because of ongoing, public health-related closures and restrictions, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on park operations, events, sports and commercial activities, including unforeseeable effects on all revenue streams, at Lansdowne Park. It will be some time before operations will be able to return to pre-COVID levels.
To mitigate the immediate effects of the pandemic on Lansdowne Park, the Finance and Economic Development Committee is recommending amendments to the Partnership Agreement that do not require any taxpayer funds. They will improve the City’s financial standing within the partnership and provide Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) with the flexibility they require to weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes will not enable OSEG to recover the significant additional equity they have already invested, and the additional $40 million OSEG will invest over the next five years. However, they will help them weather the COVID-19 impacts and restore the clear balance and alignment of risk and potential reward/potential loss that a partnership should have, and which is now unsustainability out of balance due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.
The report recommends establishing a working group of City and OSEG staff to plan for post-pandemic recovery. The group would report to Council in the first half of 2021. The Committee also recommended a Council sponsors group, with Council representatives supporting the working group and facilitating the roll out of the public engagement plan.
Recommendations from the meeting will rise to Council on Wednesday, November 25.