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From the Ground Up: The Vision and Execution of Ottawa's Sports City

The Vision: Ottawa's Sports City

Bernie Ashe, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group
John Clifford, Perkins Eastman
Jeff Marks, Premier Partnerships

Attendees at the 2013 Sports Facilities & Franchises Conference got a detailed look at the Ottawa Sports City development, a $500M project led by Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group CEO Bernie Ash, Perkins Eastman Principal John Clifford and Premier Partnerships Managing Director Jeff Marks. Ottawa Sports City will redevelop a 40-acre site at Landsdowne Park that includes a dilapidated football stadium with an attached unique multi-purpose indoor arena, and the iconic Aberdeen Pavilion, which according to Ashe "held the first hockey game in Canada under Lord Stanley."

The impetus for the project came with a group of investors who wanted to bring a CFL franchise back to Ottawa. That idea evolved when it became clear that neither the developers nor the city was going to fund the redevelopment of Frank Clair Stadium. Ottawa Sports & Entertainment then began partnering with retailers and condominium developers to build revenue for the project. Over the course of two years, the business model came together and a 50/50 project was approved between the development group and the city of Ottawa. Ashe said the project is the "largest public-private partnership" in Canada, with five equity investors. He described the deal as very "fair," adding the city "got behind it 100 percent" after the developers were all in place.

GETTING THE DEAL DONE: Per the deal, the city of Ottawa will retain all the property after a 30-year lease, and the developers' return in this deal is only 8%, while Ashe said a typical return would "generally be twice that." Clifford said that among the challenges in getting city approval for the development was building an area that could be used by the community every day, and not just on the 15 or so game days throughout the year. "It was really creating … a 365-day community where the stadium was part of it, and not just something that was driving the whole development," he said. Thus, important to the project were anchor tenants such as Whole Foods, office space and residential areas, and mixed use entertainment zones.

Marks pointed to L.A. Live as a model for what Ottawa Sports City intends to build with regard to maximizing revenue. He said they are looking at a naming-rights deal for the entire complex, as opposed to selling the stadium, the arena and the development separately. Marks: "We envision a naming-rights partner, which would be for the stadium or the complex, and probably four to five founding partners." He added that the naming-rights asking price would be in the seven figures, but less than $10M.

Ashe said there are challenges presented by companies interested in exclusive rights to certain sponsorship categories while the naming-rights deal is not completed. He said, "This area is very controversial within our company, because we're sixty percent leased right now." He added that categories including beverage rights and banking are on hold until a naming-rights deal is in place.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? Ashe said while Ottawa Sports & Entertainment has decided on the name of the new CFL franchise, it is still in the logo development phase and not ready to make the name public. He added that the team is arranging food and beverage contracts, as well as a ticketing deal. Ashe said, "Paciolan is the system we're looking at right now."

Here's a slide show from the panel. Click any image to start.

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Related Topics:

Facilities, Franchises, Hockey, CFL

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