The province says plans to rebuild Ontario Place could bring a mix of sports, entertainment, retail and recreational facilities to the city’s waterfront — but not a casino.
“After our government was elected last year, we promised to move quickly to bring Ontario Place back to life,” Michael Tibollo, the minister of tourism, culture and sport, said issuing a formal call for proposals to redevelop the former amusement park at a Tuesday-morning news conference inside the site’s landmark Cinesphere.
Tibollo said the provincial government is open to working with the city and Mayor John Tory to rebuild the site, adding “all options are currently open” to reignite the site, which opened in 1971 under former Progressive Conservative premier Bill Davis, and was largely shuttered by the Liberals several years ago
But the province won’t accept plans for a gambling facility, Tibollo said, confirming a story first reported by the Star Monday.
The government had also previously committed to no housing at the 155-acre site and Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton said the province will reject any proposals that require government grants or investment.
Councillor Joe Cressy said the City of Toronto hasn’t been consulted on any plans for the redevelopment.
“I’m deeply concerned that yet again the province is rushing forward with its own plans, despite the City of Toronto’s part ownership over the lands,” the Spadina-Fort York councillor said in a news release. “The future of Ontario Place must be in the public interest, and discussed and decided in public, not in backrooms.”
Tory — who is keen to revamp the site — has said the city must be included in discussions on its future.
The province’s development guidelines do not require the white dome of the Cinesphere to be preserved.
Last month, city council voted unanimously to list Ontario Place on the city’s heritage property register.
Developers are expected to retain the existing Budweiser Stage amphitheatre concert venue, and a 7.5-acre Trillium Park.
The waterfront area also plays prominently in the Ford government’s recent plans for new transit service, with an “Ontario Line” that includes a stop at or near Ontario Place.
Submissions from members of the public and potential development partners will be accepted until Sept. 3.
Members of the public have said they’d like to see the Ontario Science Centre relocated there, or a family-friendly music theme park, a swimming pier and public sauna or convention facilities. Others want it to be modelled on Chicago’s Millennium Park, with public gardens and parkland, art installations and space for children and families.
Temur Durrani is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @temurdur