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May 03, 2010
Ottawa stadium fight: Architectural models vs. YouTube videos!
Ottawa is headed toward a June 23 city council vote on whether to build a new football-and-soccer stadium as part of an overhaul of Lansdowne Park, and now it has a design for the new park, which includes lots of cedar and "laminar space." Architect Rob Claiborne says he can do this while coming in under the stadium's $85 million budget, which sounds crazy cheap by U.S. stadium standards, but they do do things different up in Canada.
The whole park project is budgeted at $129 million, but that's still drawn criticism that it's too much public money to benefit a private team. (The team itself would likely be an as-yet-unnamed expansion team, as Ottawa has been without a CFL team since the Renegades folded in 2006.) Carleton University professor Ian Lee even has a YouTube video out making the case against it, complete with jump cuts and focus shifts and all the other gimmicks the kids today love. (Sadly, though, no Kimya Dawson soundtrack.)
We save money by recruiting beavers to harvest the timber, melt steel with the hot air of Maple Leafs fans, and erect structures with the many discarded NASA Canadarms, eh. And don't get me started on how they do things in Quebec.
It sounds crazy cheap because it is. This is largely a renovation in that they are keeping the infrastructure from one half of the stadium, and just putting in new seats, etc. The other side has to be rebuilt entirely. The field itself is still there and in good shape.
Keep in mind that this is the only outdoor stadium in the region, which has about a million people. The stadium will still be publicly owned, and used for soccer, university and amateur athletics as well. It's basically going to be the kind of facility you see on the campus of any Division II NCAA school - it won't make anyone think of Cowboys Stadium, that's for sure.
Cheap or not by US standards, the issue is the same: namely, the money-men -- a couple of them billionaire property-developers -- have buffaloed local politicians into agreeing to pay the whole shot for the renovation of the stadium (estimated to be as much as $250 million once all is said and done) on the promise of a new Canadian Football League team, and in return they get free land to build an adjacent retail centre.
Unfortunately, no amount of questions about: the viability of the proposed team (it would be the third one for Ottawa in the last 20 years); the suitability of building such a project, in the midst of the worst economic conditions in almost a century; the appropriateness of essentially giving away public lands for a shopping centre that no-one really needs or wants; the byzantine accounting methods used to explain how tax revenues from the retail development will really pay off the debt incurred to restore the stadium; or why they plan to redevelop a stadium and build a retail centre at a site that already suffers from traffic congestion and is nowhere near mass-transit or even a major highway... no, none of these questions seems to be able to stand in the way of the mindless headlong boosterism that has driven this thing along.
Like so many of these stadium schemes, I ask, if the money men are so keen on preserving, attracting or returning sports franchises to their city, because of their love of the sport, then why aren't they using their own damn money!