Expansion of the Ottawa Convention Centre has been discussed for over a decade. As a G8 capital, and fourth largest metropolitan area in Canada, the size of Ottawa’s primary meeting and convention facility is inadequate. Ottawa continues to turn away medium sized meetings and conventions due to a lack of capacity and has been progressively losing market share and business to other mid-sized Canadian cities like Quebec City, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
In January 2000, Examination of a Business Case for Expanded Convention Facilities in the Ottawa-Carleton Region, completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers supported the case for expansion. By 2003, funding commitments from the Province of Ontario ($30 million), the Government of Canada ($30 million) and the City of Ottawa ($25 million) were secured.
In 2005, a proposed vertical expansion option on the existing site was developed. In February 2006, the Province of Ontario took the decision to cancel the project due to high construction costs and substantial design challenges. Concurrent with the cancellation, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism challenged the OCC Board of Directors to consult with the local tourism and business communities to find an Ottawa-based solution to improve Ottawa’s convention facilities.
In May 2007, under the leadership of a new Chair, President and renewed Board of Directors, a Feasibility Study on the Re-development of the Ottawa Convention Centre was commissioned.
On Wednesday, September 12, 2007, the Ottawa Convention Centre Board of Directors approved the Feasibility Study on the Re-development of the Ottawa Convention Centre and its supporting business case.
In November 2007, the OCC received funding commitments from each of its public sector partners for a total investment of the following: Province of Ontario ($50 million), Government of Canada ($50 million) and the City of Ottawa ($40 million). The balance of the project costs will be debt-financed conditional upon approval by the Province of Ontario. The cost of the project is presently estimated to be $159 million.
The Ottawa Convention Centre and its landlord, Viking Rideau Corporation have made tremendous progress and will continue to work towards an acceptable re-stated lease agreement which will provide the necessary framework to move forward with the project.
The primary recommendation of the Feasibility Study is to re-develop the OCC on the existing site. This will allow the Centre to fulfill its mandate as a world class meeting place in the heart of Canada’s Capital, revitalize the urban landscape and provide the opportunity for linkages to important cultural and recreational sites.
A downtown location, in close proximity to hotels and cultural attractions, entertainment and dining, retail and Parliament Hill highlights Ottawa’s desirability as a meeting destination. The recent designation of the Rideau Canal as a UNESCO World Heritage Site adds further prominence and profile to the Centre’s landmark location.
The Feasibility Study recommends that the OCC be demolished and a new building constructed on the existing site. The OCC plans to cease business operations on September 1, 2008 and commence demolition. Demolition is projected to take 6 months with a targeted opening date of April 1, 2011.