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Ontario Place to Shut Down, Effective Immediately; Revitalization Effort to be Led by John Tory

Ontario Place is about to meet its future: the provincial government announced this morning that most facilities would be shut down, in anticipation of a major redevelopment of the site in time for Canada's sesquicentennial in 2017.

Photo by {a href=""}Tom Podolec{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

The provincial government announced this morning that most of Ontario Place is shutting down while revitalization plans for the 96-acre entertainment park are pursued more actively. The marina, Molson Amphitheatre, and Atlantis event complex will remain open, as will parking facilities, but the remainder of Ontario Place—including the water park and the Cinesphere—are being decommissioned starting immediately. The announcement comes 18 months after the province issued a request for information (RFI), soliciting suggestions for how the complex could be redeveloped [PDF]. Specific plans are still at least a year away, but we do at least have a better sense of what the process will look like moving forward.

Photo by {a href=""}Yani Ioannou{/a} from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

One key element of today’s announcement: the creation of an advisory panel, to help the government plan the site redevelopment. It will be headed by John Tory, broadcaster, former mayoral candidate, and Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance chair. Tory is also the former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, making him a savvy choice for the Liberal government, who will limit scope for opposition to whatever redevelopment plan they end up implementing by picking a former opponent to give them advice.

The key goal of the revitalization is to move from a summer-only schedule to a complex that is active year-round. Also high on the list of priorities are maximizing public access to the waterfront, ensuring strong transportation connections to the city, and ensuring that design standards for any new construction are “of the calibre to be considered city and provincial landmarks.” As noted in the original RFI:

The development of Toronto’s waterfront has been criticized for being uninspiring. Nothing exists along the lines of the Sydney Opera House in Australia, Harbour Place in Baltimore, or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. World-class cities have taken action to build unique attractions and iconic structures which re-energize their waterfronts and give them international recognition…

[Ontario Place Corporation] is seeking creative ideas that will reconnect the site to its surrounding communities, to promote the unique aspects of Ontario’s cultural diversity and to showcase the province’s excellence in education, green technology and innovative business practices.

While the search for revitalization proposals was public, today’s closure announcement wasn’t widely anticipated. However, revenue has been weak for several years, so with redevelopment plans picking up speed, it seems the government has decided it can no longer justify supporting the costs of keeping Ontario Place open in its current form. Approximately 600 jobs will be lost as a result, and the province expects to save $20 million a year.

One matter many Torontonians will have their eyes on: the future of the Cinesphere. The triodetic dome was built in 1971, and heritage activists have been calling for its preservation and adaptive re-use. The province is seemingly open to a wide range of suggestions, but possibly too wide a range, according to some. From the RFI: “Respondents are encouraged to present ideas that consider the full potential of the lands and property, regardless of what currently exists. Suggestions or proposed ideas can retain as much or as little of the current infrastructure as the respondent wishes.” Speculation is also sure to swirl around whether Ontario Place might wind up with a casino—the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation has reportedly been looking into the idea of putting one in Toronto.

Ontario Place is one of the planned venues for the Pan Am Games (it will host the triathlon), so plans are for the site to re-open temporarily in 2015. After the Games, it will close for construction, with the goal of reopening permanently in its new form in 2017.

See also:

Ontario Place: A Photo History


  • Rhain Louis

    Can we still sit by the lake to watch the airshow?

    • Anonymous

      I hope not. Hopefully this means no air shows until at least 2017. One can dream.

      • CIAS_Supporter

        Got no problem living in a busy noisy city, but when a few fighter jets fly over a couple days a year that’s where we draw the line huh?

        • Timothy Craig

          Yeah man. That shit is crazy. Or something.

        • Anonymous

          I can accept celebrating technology in an urban setting, but most of the technology in the airshow is decades old. There’s nothing novel about watching the same old blasting every year. Stripped of that justification, it’s clear that the air show is basically an old soviet military parade. The noise is just an overly overt reminder of that.

          • Anonymous

            You’re like those NIMBY’s that buy condos in clubland then complain about the noise.

            Air show is about more than technology, but why bother explaining it to someone who clearly is just a cantankerous whiner.

          • Timothy Craig

            <3 you@torontothegreat

  • MrOrnot

    Hopefully they’ll include some residential units – Zeidler (I think) had proposed a development that would create several new islands with housing and community facilities.

    • NeetyNutz

      I hope not

    • Paul Lloyd Johnson

      Why would you want this??? Go live anywhere else, this place is for fun and entertainment!

    • Phil

      What? Let me guess, you can’t find a condo being built in Toronto? Islands have been proposed for decades. Get your head out of the sand.

      • Guest

        I dont know if you realize this but a residential area nearby would make Ontario Place better for revenue, because at least it would be certain that it would be populated.

  • Anonymous

    NFL stadium, casino, monorail and giant ferris wheel, please.

    • Anonymous

      Yes! A gaint ferris wheel that will block the flight path of island airport. Thus shutting it down for good. The only good location for an NFL studium and casino are south of the border, where they belong!

      • Timothy Craig

        I think he was being sarcastic lol

    • Phil

      You can find all those lovely things in Eetobicockee.

    • tablogloid

      Yes, call it Fordland and make it one big subway stop.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    That’s the first time I’ve seen a news site use the term “sesquicentennial” :-)

  • Peter Pelegris

    What does this mean for people who have already paid $40 or more each for passes to the park for the next summer? They are still on sale on the website and now it appears there will be no park anymore to provide the service…

    • Anonymous

      We haven’t managed to find out anything about this yet, but we’re looking into it. Will update when we learn more.

  • Richard Kitchen

    How about forget about wasting the money and labour on this and put it into the transit improvement.The whole reason we won the PAN AM games was because of our wonderful “Transit City PLan”. The government seems to love spending money on the exterior of the machine and lets the inner workings fall apart. We need better transit to alleviate the growing gridlock from all directions…ESPECIALLY the West and North, where more people are living and commuting. We keep making the highways wider and wider. The financial district warned the provincial and municipal government about this and they are dragging their behinds. Putting money into this just proves that they have little to no oversight into what is happening transit wise.

  • Drcall Dave

    I hope the plans do not include closing the Cinesphere. After all, why close it when the projection system plus the seating, flooring and wall treatments were all replaced just a year ago at an expense of about $2 million? The old projection system was completely removed and the projection system that has been installed to replace it is now 3D capable – but 2D movies including North of Superior can still be screened – the picture is still a gigantic 60 X 80 feet and the sound system is an IMAX nXos with an output power of 30,000 watts. Besides the shorter documentary / educational titles such as Mysteries of Egypt, ANY DMR film can now be screened – and titles that have been screened in 3D so far include U2 3D, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Transformers, Polar Express, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Avatar Special Edition. Why close the Cinesphere to revitalize when that has already been done? How does this make any sense? How do I know all of this? I am one of the projectionists. It will be a sad day if this theatre goes dark – two directors have commented on the excellent quality of the presentation of their films – in one case, the director was so impressed she brought the production team to a screening to show them how the movie should look and sound – and in the other, the director after a cast and crew screening said to me that he would like to bring his production crew to a screening so he could let them see the film as it really is. Frankly, if the purpose of Ontario Place as it was originally envisioned was to showcase the province, then IMAX technology fills the bill since it is an outstanding Ontario technology – and if the Molson Amphitheatre – which presents entertainment – is acceptable as a purpose for the site – then the revitalised Cinesphere also fills the bill as an element of the site that can function year round. And it can be noted that the Amphitheatre – since it is an outdoor facility, as is the marina – do not even function during the winter. The only parts of the site that can already function year round – if that is the real goal – ARE the Cinesphere and Atlantis. And the Cinesphere is already revitalised.

  • Anonymous

    They should make a new Ontario movie for the opening! Or just show the old one. You know what, just show the old one, it’s the only way I’ll ever stop hearing about how amazing it was at Expo from my parents.

  • Whine & Cheese

    The only thing that I can be certain about is that no matter what happens to the site, Torontonians will continue to complain about it.

  • Swaggy

    just build a nice giant park and I am sure it would be packed… on the other hand good luck getting it “accessible” unless they plan of shutting down that god awful highway

  • tablogloid

    The air show is a CNE event and has nothing to do with Ontario Place. Also, it takes place in the air.

  • tablogloid

    Level the whole acreage except for the theatre and the amphitheatre. Build more pedestrian bridges across lakeshore blvd. for easier access to the lake. Don’t build big box venues for crap displays. The CNE has enough of that crap already. The old eastern parking lot near the administration bldg. provides one of the best views of Toronto’s skyline. This is the perfect starting point to construct an incredibly expansive beach along the southern shore of the site. If I had my way, the site would be dedicated to green space and healthy activities.

  • christina

    on facebook PLEASE click “like” Under “Fight To Keep Ontario Place” And i will be posting as to when families can come together and fight to keep this beautiful park open. thanks

  • Cashcleaner35

    It’s easy to blame city planners and politicians when we read these stories, but the fact of the matter is that attendance for Ontario Place has been falling over the past few years. Has any of us been there anytime lately? I know I haven’t. The year it opened 2.5 million people walked through the gates. In 2009, it was only 1 million. Same goes for Riverdale Farm. People just aren’t visiting these attractions like they used to. Canada’s Wonderland on the hand, a privately-owned enterprise is the most popular seasonal park in North America and gets over 3 million visitors a year.

    Of course, I fully expect the usual suspects to neglect these facts as they get ready for the obligatory protest and petition drive over this.

  • Anonymous

    Who the hell called the waterfront uninspiring? It’s been more than significant in both design and urban planning, not to mention it’ll add more jobs, increased tourism sector, community housing, etc etc.

    And as for “exciting” institutions (though there are already some), well I’m sure some of us are still mourning the loss of the music museum that never happened…

  • Eric S. Smith

    Poor John Tory: so irrelevant that nobody in the comments has even taken a cheap shot at him.

  • gregrre

    Ontario Place, is a beautiful piece of architecture, suffering from poor management, and uninspired vision. This could be the new ‘Harbour Front’ – open it up to small crafts people and artists, maybe an evening indoor venue, outdoor skating rink. The areas transit could easily be upgraded the bathurst car ending under the gardner could be diverted south right down to ontario place…. Please don’t tear down the cinesphere and the pods over the water. This is an iconic building in Toronto and Ontario.

  • Deb

    I would love to see the aboriginals of Ontario celebrated at this site instead of the ROM.In New Mexico there are several pueblos which depict the rich history and lifestyles of the various tribes.One particular pueblo has a museum designed by an aboriginal architect.I believe this is Sky City.Amazing results! It has instilled a sense of pride in their ancestry and also taught non-aboriginals more history about the first peoples of this continent.Considering that the lake front of Toronto and it’s rivers were home to some of our aboriginal Canadians I would love to see them become involved in a project similar to Sky that we can all appreciate and be proud of in this fantastic province of Ontario.

  • Camilla Goodwin

    Re development of this place would be very great.

  • Deb Somfay

    In addition to my previous comment of a month ago,I came across a fantastic use of land development from overseas in Denmark. It’s called Plantagon. Just Google that and be prepared for a pleasant surprise for intelligent sustainable use of land! Luv this! I’ve messaged John Tory on FB also..hope he reads our suggestions.Not an easy person to get in touch with.I’m not a big fan of CFRB anymore.