CFL’s return may be delayed until 2014; Challenge to Landsdowne plan a setback for football franchise

Delays in dealing with a legal challenge to the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project could push back the return of CFL football to Ottawa to 2014, says the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s Roger Greenberg.

While OSEG has never set a firm start date for the expansion franchise it won in 2008, it has consistently targeted 2013 as the inaugural season. “Certainly our goal is to try to keep to that 2013 season,” Greenberg,

chief executive of Minto Group Inc., said Thursday.

But those hopes suffered a setback when a legal challenge to the redevelopment by the Friends of Lansdowne Park was recently rescheduled for late June. It was originally to have been heard the week of April 4.

As a result, Greenberg said he’s “not sure how achievable” a 2013 start will be. “It’s not just the hearings in June, but then we have to see how long it’s going to take for the decision.”

   
 

Greenberg isn’t overly alarmed at the potential delay. “The project is going to get built,” he said. “If it gets built a little bit later than we had originally proposed, OK, so what? It’s not the end of the world.”

Construction of a remodelled and rebuilt Frank Clair Stadium was supposed to begin in June. Greenberg hopes it can still start this September. But Graham Bird, a consultant hired by the city to help manage the project, suggested it may be a month or two later than that.

“Maybe instead of getting off the ground in September or October, we’re probably later this year,” he said in an interview.

“Is that significant in the scheme of things? No.”

Even if construction does start this fall, Greenberg said he was “reluctant” to promise the stadium would be ready in time for the 2013 CFL season.

The Lansdowne project, he said, will be “one of the most challenging construction jobs in the history of Ottawa. It will be a very, very busy site. Until we actually get in the ground and start doing it, it’s going to be real challenging to be firm on the date.”

OSEG is keeping the CFL board informed of developments, Greenberg said, adding that a 2014 launch would CFL’s return may be delayed until 2014; Challenge to Landsdowne plan a setback for football fran8ch5ise not be a problem for the league.

“They fully recognize and support our need to be in a first−class facility,” he said.

“If it means that it can’t happen until 2014, they aren’t going to push us to do something that’s going to be a had fan experience.”

Greenberg and Bird agreed that the first order of business at Lansdowne should be to knock down what’s left of the current stadium’s southside stands, which were partially demolished in 2008.

In fact, Greenberg argued the demolition should proceed this summer, even if the court hasn’t yet ruled on the Friends of Lansdowne Park challenge.

“I don’t think in anyone’s mind there’s any reason why we’d keep the southside stands.”

Greenberg views the court delay as a stalling tactic by the Lansdowne project’s opponents.

“Their modus operandi seems to be to try and delay the whole process.”

But Michael Tiger, a spokesman for the Friends of Lansdowne Park, blamed the city for tardy delivery of relevant documents about the redevelopment.

The court case was postponed, he said, to give the group and its lawyers time to review the documents.

The delay might not even be such a bad thing, Bird said. “Maybe all this clamouring has caused us all to be more thorough, more complete.” The project’s opponents, Bird said, “have made us do everything we can to make what we’re up to as good as it can be. That’s not bad.”

Bird said the various teams working on the Lansdowne project have been forging ahead with detailed plans for the stadium, the “front lawn” park and heritage preservation, including the controversial moving of the 1914 Horticulture Building, now expected to happen next year.

Those efforts have received a boost from the involvement of conservation architect Julian Smith, one of Canada’s foremost heritage experts, who is working with Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, the Vancouver firm that won the design competition for the project’s front lawn component.

Smith was the heritage architect for the 1983 restoration of the Aberdeen Pavilion, the national historic site at Lansdowne that Bird describes as the “duomo” of the redevelopment.

Smith and John Stewart, the project’s lead heritage consultant, have been working with the Ontario Heritage Trust to hash out the heritage principles for the redevelopment.

The trust must approve anything that affects the Aberdeen Pavilion or encroaches on protected view corridors to it.

Bird said the trust is taking its role “very, very seriously. There’s no fumbling or fooling around.”

Though differences remain, “everybody in the room is of the same mind −that it’s really, really important, and let’s not goof it up.”

The trust, like other heritage groups, doesn’t like the move of the Horticulture building.

CFL’s return may be delayed until 2014; Challenge to Landsdowne plan a setback for football fran8ch6ise But Bird said it considers the Horticulture Building’s relocation a “local matter” and is focused on the Aberdeen Pavilion.

He expects the process with the trust to take another two or three months.

Bird said the recruitment of tenants for the project’s commercial zone is going well. American organic grocer Whole Foods announced plans in February for a 40,000−square−foot store and “there’s some other very delightful tenancies that are coming on.”

Bird also expressed relief that city council has agreed to fast−track reconstruction of Bank Street in the Glebe this year.

Had that roadwork overlapped with construction at Lansdowne, he said that he feared shops along Bank Street would be in serious trouble.

“Sometimes nature works along with you,” Bird said. “And in this case, I think this is all unfolding as it

should.”

Disclaimer: OttawaLansdownePark.com has No Affiliation with the City of Ottawa or the OSEG. We are a local blog providing news & sports updates on Lansdowne Park.