Jin Willing, Ottawa Sun
Ottawa and Lansdowne Park are beautiful enough for the organizers of the FIFA Women's World Cup.
The ongoing construction at Lansdowne, such as work on the condo and office building behind the west goal net, doesn't bother tournament CEO Peter Montopoli.
"I think we have some plans to make sure it looks ok but there are no issues from our perspective of what it looks like," Montopoli said Monday at City Hall, where event officials and Mayor Jim Watson raised the tournament flag. "For us, we're dressing it up like a stadium that you've never seen before. It's not like the RedBlacks, it's not like the Fury. It's a complete dress-up and makeover."
The host agreement between the city, Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA calls for Ottawa to be "as attractive as possible" to fans. The city is in the middle of a major construction period with LRT-related work spilling onto the roads.
"We've been very pleased with the city. Certainly the mayor has been a proponent of making sure that the city is prepared, that it looks great. All you need to look at is Lansdowne and the great project there," Montopoli said.
The 24-team soccer tournament starts June 6 with Ottawa hosting its first matches June 7. The first two matches in Ottawa are 80% sold out, organizers said. A quarterfinal game on June 26 is 95% sold out.
Montopoli said he's pleased with ticket sales across the venues in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, Moncton and Ottawa.
He expects to see big interest from U.S. fans travelling north of the border to cheer their country. Ottawa doesn't host any Canada or U.S. games in the preliminary round.
TD Place stadium will soon be transformed into a colourful Lansdowne Stadium. FIFA is very particular about branding and protecting official sponsorships.
"It will be vibrant red and everything, even from the TD Place sign, will be covered to reflect the competition," venue GM Valerie Hughes said.
In a familiar message to Lansdowne visitors, the tournament is encouraging fans to take OC Transpo or a park-and-shuttle service to the games. A game ticket includes Transpo fare. The park-and-shuttle lots will be at City Hall and the EY Centre. The tournament is paying for the Transpo fares.
A free bike valet service will be available at Lansdowne.
Hughes said the transportation blueprint for RedBlacks games has informed the plan for the soccer tournament.