Feds wait for stadium request

SHANE ROSS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

The federal minister responsible for handing out money to cities for infrastructure projects says he'll "make sure Ottawa gets its fair share."

But Ottawa won't get any money for an open-air stadium until it asks, said Ottawa West-Nepean MP John Baird, who is the minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

"I'll put them at the front of the line," he said. "Just come to my office."

Baird said he has had conversations with the two local groups competing to build an open-air stadium in Ottawa, and told them it would be something he could support, but the city has to make a decision before money is allocated.

COMPETING BIDS

"Both the soccer and football proposals are on city land," Baird said. "I can't approve them because they're not on my land. I'm just the guy with the money."

Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group, led by four local businessmen, wants to renovate Frank Clair Stadium to house a CFL team. Senators Sports & Entertainment wants to build a soccer-specific stadium for an MLS team near Scotiabank Place. Both proposals would require about $100-million in funding shared among the public and private sectors.

The province also appears to be on board, but is also waiting to hear from the city.

"We have received no indication that the City of Ottawa has a firm proposal," said Ottawa West-Nepean Liberal MPP Jim Watson, who is the Minister of Municipal Affairs. "If city council selects a project, the province of Ontario would be prepared to look at the project as part of any future capital funding in conjunction with the federal government and the City of Ottawa. We would need a very clear idea of how high a priority a stadium is with council and until that time it's difficult to speculate."

On Tuesday, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick shocked the city's planning committee by saying any money the feds gave to a stadium would have to compete with other infrastructure requests.

That shouldn't be a surprise, Baird said.

"The city has to make decisions just like every family makes," Baird said. "How much do we spend on vacation? How much do we spend on groceries?"

But that doesn't necessarily mean you can't eat and take a trip. You just have to set your priorities, and the city won't know how much money is available until it knocks on Baird's door.

SHANE.ROSS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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