Susan Sherring, Ottawa Sun
At first blush, a first visit to Lansdowne Park can't be described in any way but disappointing.
The word ugly might actually cross your mind.
At second blush, the feeling is much the same.
There's a huge Sporting Life at the entrance and big signs on the Bank St. side advertising the bargains inside.
There's a Winner's. There's a Structube, which recently relocated from the ByWard Market.
The store, with lovely modern furniture, also has two other locations in Ottawa.
There's a Source, if for some reason your own neighbourhood doesn't have one close by.
And there's a whole bunch of restaurants.
But if you're searching for a store with fun and unique finds you can't get anywhere else, a boutique — as first suggested by the powers that be when the vision for transforming Lansdowne Park was just on paper — nary a one.
So if you're heading to Lansdowne Park from the 'burbs (where many of us live), you might want to think twice — unless of course you just have to have a glass of wine while watching a movie -- and are willing to drive there to do so — or you've got tickets to the RedBlacks.
But here's the thing: the Sun spoke to several visitors to Lansdowne and some working at the local stores.
Everyone loved it. A lot.
They love the vibe, they love the many choices of restaurants, they love just walking around, and they're crazy about the stadium.
Perhaps it's all in your expectations.
Those of us who sat through long and often very detailed committee and council meetings debating the future of the park could well have had unrealistic ideas of what the end result would look like.
The much ballyhooed water park closer to the canal side is a lunch-bag letdown, with its underwhelming sprays of water.
But that's not at all how Tina McInnes sees it.
A Glebite, she's been taking her three kids, ages 5, 8 and 9, to Lansdowne Park on a regular basis.
The family loved the outdoor skating rink in the winter, and now love the water park and the wide open green spaces.
That, coupled with the many restaurants and the limited number of shops, has her very happy with the outcome.
"I think it's wonderful," McInnes said. "But then again, I didn't have huge expectations."
(There's a lot to be said for keeping the bar low.)
She admits that during the planning and implementation process, she had her concerns -- particularly with potential traffic problems.
Her worries have turned out to be unfounded, she says.
A reasonable woman, McInnes said she can easily understand why someone from the 'burbs may not be happy with all the money that has flowed into the park.
Stephen Picknell, the general manager for the restaurant Industria, couldn't be more pleased about the place. In fact, the parent company is opening another restaurant -- Houston Ave. Bar and Grill -- at the front of Lansdowne Park.
"We're very happy," he said. Though the place has only been open a month, on the weekends and game days it's packed.
On Tuesday, the day the Sun paid a visit, things were slow, but that doesn't worry him.
"This is a great location."
And Fraser Robinson, the assistant manager of Structube, was effusive about the location, convinced the crowds will come.
"Business is up (from the Market location). We'd like to see more stores, but there's a lot of foot traffic. The area is great," he said.
Sadly, the end result of Lansdowne Park makes it clear the almighty dollar -- and not the love of green space -- ruled.
Sadly as well, that is reality.
Is it better than it once was, neglected, under-utitlized and with large patches of asphalt for decoration doomed for stagnation?
And despite some of its shortcoming, seems the people using it just love it.
COST A MYSTERY
Just how much did that water park cost taxpayers?
There's a heck of a question.
Unfortunately, seems city staff can't find anyone who knows.
Two weeks ago, the Sun asked the city's well-staffed communications department how much the water park cost.
Initially, the question was ignored, then it was put off.
Fourteen days later, still nothing. It's impossible to know whether you got value for your hard-earned dollar.
The art sculpture called Uplift, which is part of the water area and Moving Surfaces, another art piece, cost $4 million.
They were funded through a $44 million budget for the city's overall urban park development.
The $44 million started at $37.5 million, but apparently had to be upped by a few million when an inspection in 2014 determined the Horticulture Building roof needed to be replaced; and to accommodate Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services programming needs and updates to the public washroom families.
Of the $44 million, the city pays $41.5 million, with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group pays $2.5 million.