Lees Avenue field unable to open until May
Spencer Van Dyk | Fulcrum Staff
Photo by Justin Labelle
Coliseum Inc, the Ottawa company scheduled to build a dome at the new Lees campus sports field, has decided to proceed with arbitration against the City of Ottawa. Now that the City has officially reneged on their decision to relocate Coliseum Inc. to Lees Avenue because of the Lansdowne Park redevelopment project, the City must find an alternate location for Coliseum as per their lease agreement. Since last November, it seemed as though the Lees Avenue location would be ideal for all parties involved—Coliseum, the City, and the University of Ottawa—but the city informed Coliseum in mid-November of this year that they may not proceed with construction of a dome over the field.
“It was in our contract that if there is a redevelopment plan at Lansdowne, that the City would undertake to move us to a new location, mutually agreed upon,” explained Martin Lauter, one of the Coliseum owners.
Jennifer Elliott, a communications officer for the U of O Sports Services, said having the dome at the Lees Avenue location would have been extremely beneficial to the university, and that Sports Services is disappointed there will be another winter without the dome. Had the dome been built, Sports Services would have acted as a sort of tenant, renting space from Coliseum during the winter months when the dome was in place.
“There was a six-year agreement that it was going to go up on Sept. 15, and open for people to use for all the leagues that the Coliseum group runs, and the university was going to rent time to have recreation programming, varsity practices, and … intramural programs,” said Elliott. “That was going to happen every year until May when the dome would come down. Then the university would operate the field and all the bookings from May until November when there is no dome.”
Lauter added that the process of moving into the Lees location and installing a dome was postponed due to several setbacks.
“We had two false starts,” he explained. “We tried to move in there twice to set up the dome. There were issues with the field the first time, so there were some delays. The second false start, we had all our people there, our cranes there, our dome there, all our equipment there—everybody was there, we had 70 labourers, more or less, and we were ready to go. The field wasn’t ready for us, and we had to send everybody home.”
Following that incident, the university had to finish the field in order to be ready for Coliseum to move it, all while Coliseum was in contract negotiations with the City. Coliseum alleges they were then sent a letter by the City in mid-November saying that they must vacate the field and could no longer proceed with construction. Coliseum was to sign that letter by Nov. 21 or leave.
“There were numerous issues that needed to be sorted out, and they were not addressed, so we didn’t sign,” explained Lauter. “We then told our clients we were done, that we had been closed out by the City. They want to look at other options for the site, and that’s where we are now.”
Due to the breach of contract, Coliseum is now pursuing arbitration with the City, leaving the University of Ottawa stuck in the middle, with no input in negotiations and still no dome at Lees.
“We just have to wait for the word from them,” said Elliott. “The last word we got was that there will be no dome this year, but we don’t know if that’s going to change or not.”
She added that the university wants to pursue the possibility of having a dome at that facility one way or another, as it is important for the teams to be able to properly train on a field during the winter. In future years, the university will explore other options in order to get a dome. For this year, though, the university—along with Coliseum and the City—is in the midst of a waiting game.
“For this winter, we have to wait and see what’s happening, and look forward to when we are going to start operating the field in May,” Elliott said. “We’re cancelling the programs that we were going to run in the dome. In terms of next year, we’re going to have to evaluate that as soon as we can, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens after the City and Coliseum talk.”
The City of Ottawa declined to comment.