Ontario Place was once a hub of family fun and activity on the city’s lake shore but its future could soon be in the hands of someone from across the globe.
The Doug Ford government announced on Friday that it is taking submissions from individuals and companies worldwide who want to redevelop Ontario Place.
“Our government for the people believes in and supports the innovation of the private sector and we’re going to search worldwide for the most innovative ideas out there,” Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Tibollo said in a statement on Friday.
“We have a unique opportunity here to create something special at Ontario Place and I’m confident that we’re going to see some great ideas come out of this process.”
The government isn’t ruling out a casino or a Ferris wheel.
“We are simply collecting ideas at this point and we are very much looking forward to see what the people of Ontario want to see with that space,” MPP Kinga Surma, who represents Etobicoke Centre, said.
The City of Toronto voted against the idea to bring a casino to Ontario Place when it was suggested during the years when Rob Ford was mayor. The previous Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne had sought development proposals with the stipulation that there be no casino on the property.
When it comes to what could be developed on the property, the Ford government does have a few stipulations.
They won’t consider proposals for any residential uses, proposals that require operating grants or capital investments for planning, design or construction from the province, or any land sale.
“We’re going to bring Ontario Place back to life and make it a spectacular world-class, year-round destination to visit in North America,” Tibollo said.
“Our vision for Ontario Place will make it an impressive attraction that could include exciting sport and entertainment landmarks, public parks or shopping. We could also have places for recreation, for people to come together and to hear great music at the existing amphitheatre.”
The government made no mention of preserving the more iconic parts of Ontario Place, such as the Cinesphere.
However, the Budwiser Stage and three hectares of park land will not be subject to redevelopment.
Last week, hundreds of Torontonians gathered together at Metro Hall to voice their concerns over the future of Ontario Place.
“I can’t imagine why anybody would want to tear it down,” Toronto resident Emilia Hurd said.
“We have such beautiful spaces at Ontario Place, so many wonderful things there.”
City councillor Joe Cressy, who represents the riding where Ontario Place exists, was also at the meeting.
“Ontario Place, publicly-owned land on the waterfront, shouldn’t be for sale, nor should a sweetheart deal be given to some friend of the Fords. Rather, this is a space that should be for all Ontarians,” he said.
Suzanne Kavanagh, a board member with Waterfront For All, called the Ford plan to demolish Ontario Place completely and start-from-scratch “short sighted.”
The province has set up a website where proposals can be submitted and further information on the land can be found.
Before the new proposal is chosen, the province said it will explore interim opportunities to bring in short-term and summer programming to the area.
The province closed Ontario Place to the public in 2012 due to falling revenues at the government-owned theme park and tight provincial finances.
With files from The Canadian Press