We've got a Lansdowne option

A sketch shows a reinvigorated Lansdowne Park proposed by the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group,...

A sketch shows a reinvigorated Lansdowne Park proposed by the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group, which has run into resistance from councillors who want an international design competition to determine the fate of the historic gathering place. (Courtesy of Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group)

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

What is it about Ottawa these days?

Everybody wants options.

First, Dany Heatley. The Senators winger asked for a trade, got one to the Oilers, then turned it down because he wanted options.

Now, city councillors have tried to shut down the Lansdowne Live proposal — which council asked city staff to negotiate with the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group — because they want options.

Wouldn’t we all love options?

An option for a bigger house, a better job?

Sometimes life is about timing, recognizing the best deal when it’s there and not getting mired in sticking with the status quo in what might be the never-ending anticipation of a better deal coming your way.

A concern expressed by councillors about the Lansdowne Live project, one of two unsolicited proposals for an open-air stadium the city received earlier this year, is the plan is sole-sourced.

It’s frustrating to hear the cries to open up Lansdowne’s future to an international design competition as though someone from outside our borders would have some magical solution which nobody from around here — who might be intimately acquainted with the history of the site, the demands of the site and what the site means to our community — had ever contemplated.

As a guy who grew up in Montreal in the 1960s and ’70s, I remember that city bringing in Parisian Roger Taillibert to design the Olympic Stadium.

That worked out well, huh?

There are no guarantees an international competition is going to be better than what we’ve got in front of us now.

Coun. Clive Doucet, in whose ward Lansdowne is located, and the rest of his Glebe minions have every right to demand an open competition, though the request strikes as just another tactic to delay doing anything with the site, frustrating the OSEG and making the Lansdowne Live proposal disappear.

Nothing at Lansdowne — short of a meadow and a campfire around which to sing Kumbaya — will make some of these people happy.

One of the other frustrating things about this debate: The impression that some Glebeites think Lansdowne is their exclusive domain and how a reinvigorated park would inconvenience them.

Did they not choose to live in the Glebe with the knowledge it was adjacent to an open-air stadium and civic centre? That means retail, traffic and noise.

Lansdowne has only been used as a central gathering place for about a hundred years, so I guess I could see how it comes as a surprise to the good people of the Glebe that it might be that again.

The public-private deal in front of us offers a vision of Lansdowne that meets almost all the criteria that transform Lansdowne into the “jewel” it’s hoped it can be again.

Would an international design competition uncover people like those behind the OSEG, who are willing to pay to bring back CFL football and bid for a soccer franchise?

Local businessmen whose reputations are on the line in making this work and can’t skulk back to the U.S., France or Germany if it doesn’t?

Would an international design competition come up with a business plan that is expense-neutral to the city?

Maybe. And if it doesn’t? We’ve probably missed a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

The OSEG offers us a chance for an open-air stadium capable of hosting world-class events, as well as a resurrected CFL team and perhaps a United Soccer Leagues franchise, the removal of acres of asphalt in favour of a “front lawn,” a new profile on Bank St., and a nice home for the farmers’ market.

The economics of the deal, as explained at council Wednesday, are expense-neutral. The city only has to keep spending at its current level (about $3.8 million a year).

The OSEG, as I understood it the other night, is willing to assume the risk of losses with the sports franchises and is willing to share any profits equally with the city. (If there’s somebody who knows more about the proposed financing and can see loopholes, please speak up when the opportunity presents itself.)

Options.

We’d all love to have lots of them.

Life seldom offers many.

We’ve got one now.


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