The revitalization of Ontario Place in Toronto is set to involve three new attractions, including a redevelopment of the existing amphitheatre, an adventure park, as well as a destination of parkland, water slides, and botanical spaces.
The provincial government made the announcement Friday, having selected three companies from the 2019 Call for Development process.
Construction is not expected to be completed until sometime between 2027 and 2030.
“We have identified development partners who will help us revitalize Ontario Place into a world-class, year-round destination for all Ontarians,” Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod said at a morning press conference.
According to a news release from the province, Therme Group is set to build a family-friendly, all-season location “offering something for all ages,” including water slides, pools, botanical gardens, and eight acres of publicly accessible parkland and beaches.
Live Nation is set to redevelop the existing amphitheatre into a “year-round indoor-outdoor live music and performance venue.” The venue will have an expanded capacity of 20,000 in the summer and almost 9,000 in the winter. Existing lawns will be protected.
Lastly, officials said Écorécréo Group was selected to build an “affordable all-season adventure park” for all ages, including obstacle courses, ziplines, climbing walls and escape rooms.
“From aquatic activities, botanical gardens, and a year-round event venue, to an affordable all-season family-friendly adventure park, Ontario Place will be a premier tourism destination once again,” Premier Doug Ford said.
None of the Ontario Place lands will include casinos or condos, and the land will not be sold, the government said. The destination will be open to the public all year round.
Specific entrance fees to the Therme and Écorécréo Group locations were unclear as of Friday.
“Hopefully, what I’m being told is it’ll be no more than going to the zoo, for example. So we have to keep it affordable for all families to come here,” Ford said.
Meanwhile, the iconic Cinesphere and pod complex will remain at the site and are expected to begin undergoing repairs in December.
“The province will also work with the Ontario Science Centre to explore opportunities to have science-related tourism and educational programming at the Cinesphere and pod complex,” the news release said.
In the meantime, the Cinesphere, which has operated as a cinema, is expected to remain open, as will other parts of the site.
Trillium Park and William G. Davis Trail will be integrated into the redevelopment and will continue to be accessible throughout the remediation process. The marina will also be included in the revitalized site.
The province said the government will be holding the next phase of public consultations through a website launching next month and virtual information sessions in the fall.
“As the redevelopment moves forward, public input will be critical to support the planning and development of the site,” the news release said.
“Mark Saunders, special advisor for Ontario Place, will continue to engage with the City of Toronto, Indigenous communities, project stakeholders, businesses and community groups that have interest in the Ontario Place site to ensure all perspectives on these important proposals are recognized and considered.”
Chief R. Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation attended Friday’s announcement.
“The Mississaugas see the redevelopment of Ontario Place as a significant and visible opportunity to provide education, promote reconciliation, and talk about the value of nature and mother Earth,” Laforme said.
“We’re honoured to play a role in the future of this adventure and pleased to be a part of the collaboration.”
Officials said 3,600 jobs will be created as a result of the redevelopment and once completed, an estimated five to seven million visitors per year are expected.
The exact cost of the construction process for the provincial government has not yet been revealed, but officials said that once completed, the redeveloped Ontario Place is expected to yield revenue for the province, with the province acting as a landlord.
An estimated $500 million of private-sector investment will also go into the redevelopment project.
“The revitalization of Ontario Place has been a long time coming — too long — but sometimes it’s like saying good food takes time,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.
“Maybe to get it right you have to spend the time to do it and there’s more time yet to come. There’s a long way to go in this process, but today marks a very, very important beginning.”
Located south of Lake Shore Boulevard West and Exhibition Place, Ontario Place opened in 1971 but was shuttered in 2012 due to falling revenues and tight provincial finances. At that time, the government said attendance fell to about 300,000 from a peak of around 2.5 million.
The Cinesphere was renovated in recent years and continues to operate year-round, showcasing films. Also, a 240-slip marina is open for use between May and October. More recently, the site has hosted festivals and drive-in events.
— with files from Nick Westoll