SFF Conference: Execs Detail Plans For Ottawa Sports City At Landsdowne Park
The '13 Sports Facilities & Franchises Conference took a detailed look at the Ottawa Sports City development, a $500M project led by Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group CEO Bernie Ashe, Perkins Eastman Principal John Clifford and Premier Partnerships Managing Dir 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' desire 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. OSEG 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 is only 8%, while Ashe said a typical return would "generally be twice that." Clifford said among the challenges in getting city approval for the development, was building an area that could be used every day by those in the community, not just for 15 or so gamedays throughout the year. "It was really creating, for the city's purpose, which I think helped to sell it for the entitlement process, a 365-day community where the stadium was part of it, and not just something that was driving the whole development," he said. Important to the project were anchor tenants such as Whole Foods, both 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 in regards 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 the naming-rights estimate 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 yet firmed up. He said, "This area is very controversial within our company, because we're 60% 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 OSEG has decided on the name of the new CFL franchise, they are still in the logo development phase and are not ready to make the name public. He added that the team is in the process of arranging food and beverage contracts, as well as a ticketing deal. Ashe said, "Paciolan is the system we're looking at right now."