As football fans get ready for the Ottawa RedBlacks’ first home game ever, the Glebe BIA is welcoming them and the new CFL team to the neighbourhood with “open arms.”
View from corner of Bank Street and Holmwood Avenue looking southeast.
“We’re open and ready to go,” BIA chair Greg Best said earlier this week. “Open arms. Listen, my dad was a longtime Rider fan. He had tickets on the south side for many, many years and used to drive me there as a kid even though I was cheering for Hamilton at the time. RedBlacks today – I’m excited about it.”
And while the Glebe is throwing its own kind of tailgate party in the hours ahead of Friday’s kickoff – complete with live music, street performers, and of course, plenty of food and drink – there wasn’t always this kind of excitement about the Lansdowne redevelopment project.
Mr. Best didn’t want to “rehash all the history of that,” but he did admit the BIA’s relationship with the team’s owners, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, was “a bit touchy to begin with.”
“For the record, the BIA has always been pro-development of Lansdowne … There had been a few years of neglect by past councils and so we just wanted something done with it. Do something. Make it better,” he said.
Mr. Best said the neighbourhood’s relationship with OSEG has been very cordial over the last three or four years, hinting that new Capital ward Coun. David Chernushneko has helped smooth things over.
Mr. Chernushenko will miss the opening day festivities because he is out of the country on a family vacation.
Once the opening day party is over, there will still be concerns to work through, said Mr. Best.
“My crystal ball isn’t that clear,” he said. “To see this kind of development take place with those components, not on a major arterial, in an existing business district, there are a lot of question marks. How is it going to work?”
Traffic, parking and the retail mix are major concerns, but Mr. Best said the BIA is excited about some of the programming that could happen on the days that don’t feature pro football or soccer action at TD Place. He said he is hoping for some integrated programming with some of the city’s festivals.
The BIA is around to make the experience positive for everyone, he said, noting OSEG is a member of the organization.
In fact, the BIA’s “Be” campaign – be there, be happy, be unique – has been incorporated into Friday’s festivities, branded “Be a fan.”
Mr. Best said OSEG CEO Bernie Ashe has been very approachable since he joined the group.
“People get back to us pretty quick. We’re not just calling up to find out what the cost of a beer is. These are major issues,” he said. “They’re concerned, we’re concerned on just how well it rolls out. It could be great.”