Gameday!

In case you hadn’t heard (and if you’re in Ottawa, that seems unlikely), today is the home opener for the Ottawa RedBlacks. There’s been a lot of chatter in recent weeks (and months) (and years) about the viability of football, the best plan for Lansdowne, traffic and such. Tonight, we’ll finally get some answers.

Okay, we won’t, really, get many answers. Lansdowne is still mostly a construction site. The RedBlacks are an expansion team, and its easy for people to be excited about their first home game. And, of course, today’s traffic won’t really tell us what it’ll be like going forward. Likely, it’ll kind of suck, but it’s a progress that, hopefully, will keep getting better.

Interestingly, the city is well-ahead in planning for traffic concerns. This morning, they had a bunch of Special Event No Parking signs up. The city has actually expanded the no parking areas, which is great (and potentially troubling for those foolish enough to drive to the game). As well, last night they had dropped off some barricades at the corners of some side.

I will, alas, not be going to the game, but I will be down on Bank Street. It will be great to experience the carnival atmosphere. Hopefully, we can keep up this sort of enthusiasm for years to come. (Well, not to this degree. Obviously, things are a little extra amped up for the opener.)

Kickoff

It’s game day for the Ottawa RedBlacks. They kickoff the regular season this evening in Winnipeg. It’s been a long road to get a sustainable football team back in Ottawa. We suffered through a Riders team that constantly teetered on the brink (and eventually disbanded); we were toyed with when Grant White came to town; and we were given the Renegades, a team that was as poorly run as the Riders’ final days but without having built up any good will with the community to try to pull them through.

Last month, I wrote about the idea of being a disenchanted CFL fan for the Ottawa Citizen:

I was born 274 days before Tony Gabriel made The Catch in the 1976 Grey Cup, Ottawa’s last championship. Needless to say, I don’t remember it. I spent the 1980s and some of the ’90s rooting for perennial losers. Such was the fate of Ottawa fans of my generation, but, regardless, I was a fan.

As much as I loved CFL football, we eventually broke up. I watched CFL commissioner — and current Toronto mayoral candidate — John Tory scold fans for not supporting the team (even though we regularly outdrew the Grey Cup-winning Argonauts). I watched as former mayor Jim Durrell attempted to patch together a plan to salvage the team.

But there was no salvation.

So here we are with the RedBlacks. The team seems better than any Rough Riders or Renegades team we have seen in over thirty years. It’s a time of hope for fans. And even if they don’t win many games, they’re already a success.

Who wants to go to Lansdowne?

OSEG and the city have released their initial game day travel plan for Lansdowne Park. It’s pretty thorough, but also rather straightforward (dear God, don’t bring a car to Lansdowne). You can read about it in the Metro, the Sun or the Citizen. The Citizen’s Joanne Chianello also has a good take. It’s really too soon for an in-depth analysis, but it seems like a pretty good plan. Here are a few initial thoughts:

  • It’ll still kind of suck. Face it, transportation kind of sucks. You may like a leisurely Sunday drive in the country or cruising on your bike along the canal, but when it comes to more utilitarian transportation—especially when we’re talking about moving 20,000+ to one location, it’s going to suck. All we can hope for is that OSEG and the city make it suck as little as possible. They may have come close to achieving that.
  • Cars are not really welcome. Sure, you can take your car to Lansdowne, but—unless you’re a V.I.Fan—you’re not parking on-site. Even then, there are only spots for about half the number of potential VIPs. You can try parking in the neighbourhood, but no special accommodations will be made. OSEG claims there are 2500 spots nearby, but “nearby” means from the Queensway to Riverside and from Bronson to the river. Many people won’t consider such spots within a walkable distance to the stadium.
  • Yes, drivers, OSEG is trolling you. Live with it.
  • They really want you to use buses or shuttles. They’ll be churning up and down Bank Street and along the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. And you’ve already paid for them (they’re included in the price of the ticket, so they’re “free” on game day), so you might as well use them.
  • Fans who bike or walk will be subsidizing everyone else. Cyclists and pedestrians already subsidize all road users, but now those fans will be directly subsidizing mass transit-using fans. But no one should complain. That’s the price of having a CFL team back. If you don’t like it, don’t go to the games.
  • Concerns about transportation are overblown. People seem to think that the Glebe has never hosted an event with tens of thousands of people coming and going at approximately the same time. It’s like the Rough Riders never happened. I used to attend Riders games, and I used all modes of transport (walk, drive, drive-and-walk, bike, bus, bus-and-walk, shuttle bus). We all poured out of Lansdowne at the same time, and the place cleared out pretty easily. The only thing that didn’t was the parking lot. It’s a good thing we won’t have to worry about that now.
  • Seriously, why would you drive to Lansdowne?
  • For the first game, the city is barring all parking on Bank Street. This is probably a good thing, though there is a chance cars will drive way too fast. There’s also a chance pedestrians will fill the curb-side lanes. This would be a great use of the street. It also underscores the idea that we should make Bank a two-lane complete street.
  • I imagine part of the reason that there won’t be any parking on Bank Street for the first game is to drive home the message, you won’t find parking down here. If so, good job by the city and OSEG.
  • Apparently, the BIA doesn’t like this idea but have agreed to it for the first game only. The city wanted more. Well, the BIA helped kill any plan for a complete street on Bank, so I have no sympathy.
  • To that end, this gem came out in the Citizen’s report, “But some business owners remain concerned about how the narrow street will accommodate the additional traffic while leaving room for regular shoppers.” Well, if they’d just pushed for a complete street…
  • Glebe residents are going to complain. I say that as a Glebe resident who lives closer to Lansdowne than probably 98% of the neighbourhood. They’ll complain. I might grumble a bit, but it’s just the price of living in an urban centre. I’ll take this over the suburbs.
  • That being said, some residents will likely have legitimate beefs. For instance, residents on Lakeside Avenue (though not in the Glebe) are getting the shaft. My street is occasionally used as a cut-through to Fifth Avenue (it saves time only if you speed… unless you have to stop to clean dead children and pets off your grill). The city will need to address specific gripes.
  • I don’t want them to change parking limits to one hour. That also hurts residents and patrons of other shops. Keep it at three hours (maybe two or two and a half), and patrol it religiously at first. People will be away from their cars for more than three hours. Ticket the hell out of people.
  • If they put special one hour parking on game days on specific streets (say Clarey or Holmwood…maybe those are one hour now, I don’t drive so I don’t park), I’m not going to complain. My street tends to be full at all times, so I’m not too concerned about it.

In the end, there’s nothing new to complain about. If you never liked the idea of football in the Glebe, you’re still unhappy, and many of your concerns are reinforced. If you think you have a Russ Jackson-given right to drive your car anywhere and everywhere and especially to CFL games, you’ll be disappointed when you’re forced onto buses or sidewalks with the unwashed masses. I mean, you’re going to a football game, you certainly don’t want to be crammed cheek-to-jowl with other people.

For some fun rubbernecking, read the comments on the Sun or Citizen stories. Then weep for humanity.