Lansdowne 2.0 is Ignoring the City’s Biggest Issues

Last week, the local news was even more depressing than usual.

Where shall I begin?

– Ottawa city council approved Lansdowne 2.0.
– OC Transpo is cutting back on bus routes but is increasing fares.

Ottawa is continuing its downward spiral.

This week, I’ll focus on Lansdowne 2.0. I’m not going to go on and on about the details. At this point, I’m sure that most people have already heard about it. I want to talk about wheelchair accessibility at Lansdowne Park and my experiences.

Last week, I watched an interview on CBC between a person with a disability and someone from the Alliance To End Homelessness. Sorry, I don’t recall the names of the people who were interviewed.

The interview was centred around the need for better wheelchair accessibility at Lansdowne Park. I’m not sure why CBC was lumping the two issues together. As I’ve said before, Ottawa seems to care about people with disabilities as much as they care about the unhoused. It’s a sad comparison, but I know that some in the local PWD community feel the same way.

The fact that CBC brought the two issues together indicates the more significant problem.

Do I think that Lansdowne Park is accessible? For my purposes, yes, but it could be better. Does Ottawa need more affordable housing? Yes, absolutely!

Regarding wheelchair accessibility, it comes down to the individual’s needs, the size of their mobility devices, and whether or not public spaces within the building are easy to access—for example, the bathrooms and other common areas.

All public spaces SHOULD be accessible to the public, but for various reasons, it’s challenging to find.

During the CBC interview, the topic was raised of how small and tight the bathrooms in the arena are.

As for myself, I often have a difficult time manoeuvring my wheelchair into the bathroom on the second floor. This bathroom is located beside the first set of wheelchair seating.

The corner to enter the bathroom is very tight and hard to navigate. Now, as some, or many of you, may know, my wheelchair is like a tank. At least compared to many other wheelchairs in the city. In this case, size does matter.

A lot of the time, local media focuses on people with smaller wheelchairs. For some reason, the media thinks that all PWDs use smaller wheelchairs. The bigger the wheelchair, the more difficult it is to address accessibility issues. It’s like we’re a bigger problem to deal with, so, therefore, we’re not worth addressing.

As far as Lansdowne Park is concerned, I would change three things:

1. Bigger bathrooms, including family washrooms and single washrooms for those with disabilities.

2. As far as Para Transpo stops at Lansdowne, keep it simple. Have one stop at the arena and one stop at the stadium. The other stops, such as the movie theatre, the Horticulture building, and the Aberdeen Pavilion, are fine. Being able to book a Para Transpo trip to the arena or the stadium should be simple. We shouldn’t need the stress of figuring out which stop to use.

3. Better seating options for PWDs. Except for 67’s hockey games, PWDs are pushed to the back. I’ve been to several events both in the arena and the stadium. I have a hard time seeing whoever’s on stage. When I buy tickets for events, I want to be able to see the show and feel like I’m part of the event. I don`t want to be sitting way up high in the stands. I would like to be closer to the action. The same goes for REDBLACK as well as Atlético games.

The rest of Lansdowne Park is good. All the restaurants and bars are good, at least the ones I have been to. The movie theatre is fine. The Aberdeen Pavilion is fine. The Horticulture Building is fine. I love the scenery and how wide the pathways are.

So why not make the stadium and arena more accessible and leave the rest alone?

The main answer is that our mayor wants to help his buddies at OSEG.

OSEG says they’re losing money, and events aren’t coming to Ottawa.

OSEG wants to build a smaller arena.

I’m not a business guy, but if you want to attract bigger events, build a bigger arena. I don’t understand how a smaller arena is going to help.

Regarding housing, I think it was a bad decision to build housing in the middle of a park.

The buildings obstruct the view of the stadium.

I fondly remember being on Para Transpo and catching a glimpse of the field from the bus. I also fondly remember attending concerts at the stadium. As time passed, more nearby residents started complaining about the noise and the traffic issues. Now, we’ve been stuck with a stadium only used for football and soccer. Gone are the days of The Rolling Stones, Guns and Roses, and other big-name acts playing on the field.

The situation will only worsen once more housing is built at TD Place.

I suggest repairing the arena to accommodate people with disabilities and families better. While you’re at it, repair the roof. Keep the green space as is. Also, don’t kill the small businesses near the arena.

Lansdowne 2.0 will go down as one of the worst decisions in the city. Work is expected to last for the next decade at an extraordinary cost to taxpayers.

Money that could have been used to build affordable housing in better locations, improve public transit, and reduce traffic congestion.

Someone, please explain why this is the best way to spend our money.

HEADER IMAGE: Lansdowne in 2015 after the construction of phase one. RIGHT: The proposed design for Lansdowne 2.0. (PHOTOS: Courtesy City of Ottawa)