Next week, city staff will report to council on the Lansdowne Live proposal for the redevelopment of our venerable, shabby stadium on the canal.
I have to admit I’m a little anxious. Valid concerns about the sole-sourcing of the project or the vagaries of sports franchises aside, I’m fearful of losing the good.
I have a lot of affection for the place. The Civic Centre is the concert venue of my youth, a bit grubby, infused perhaps with a little carny spirit from the Ex, not nearly as prissy and corporate as modern venues.
Many staff look like they might be attending the concert if they didn’t have to work. When the house lights go down, the potheads spark up, and no extraordinary measures are taken to curb them. The general atmosphere is that of a rock show, not some homogenized entertainment product.
Still, I’m not so sentimental that I’d like the old place to stay the way it is until the ceiling falls on my head. All I ask is that whoever does whatever to Lansdowne, it’s made as unlike Scotiabank Place as possible.
The Bank is a sterile wasteland, its events staffed by perky, well-groomed control freaks and ever more of its surfaces plastered with company logos. Indeed, you may remember it as the Corel Centre. Someday, its name will change again, confusing occasional visitors to the city, who have to adjust to yet another bought-and-sold landmark changing corporate aliases.
Hockey and concerts have zilch to do with either Corel or Scotiabank.
Naming rights for Lansdowne, in contrast, were floated this summer as a raffle prize, a jokey gimmick to move 67s tickets. The lack of corporate interest in branding Lansdowne only increases my regard for the old slum.
At the least, no matter what redevelopment atrocities are wreaked on Lansdowne, it can’t be moved out of the city. It’s true that transit to Lansdowne could be better, but the Scotiabank Centre is practically on another planet, built for drivers, unless you fancy spending either $60 each way for a cab or half your evening on the bus.
A downtowner can walk to Lansdowne, and have dinner or a drink somewhere in the neighbourhood, instead of at some stadium-attached eatery with captive audience prices.
To the eventual developers of Lansdowne, I say please be gentle. Those are good memories you’re paving over.