Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Turn Ontario Place into multi-use complex, report urges

John Tory, chair of CivicAction, announces the Ontario Place revitalization plans for the now closed park.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Ontario Place, the aging theme park on Toronto's waterfront, should be transformed into a multi-use complex where people could attend music concerts, shop, dine, work, live or just enjoy the view of Lake Ontario, a new report says.

Ontario Place should not become home to a "wall of high-rise condos," warned John Tory, a former Progressive Conservative leader and author of the report, who advised the provincial government on how to generate more revenue from a once-premier tourist attraction that has fallen into disrepair.

The lakeside complex should be open to the public year round, not just in the summer, Mr. Tory said at a news conference on Thursday at Queen's Park, where he released his final report.

Story continues below advertisement

"No one should have to pay admission to enjoy the natural beauty of this section of the waterfront of Lake Ontario," Mr. Tory said. "We see Ontario Place as a new public backyard for all Ontarians."

The Crown-owned Ontario Place would generate revenues for the cash-strapped province by becoming a year-round magnet for concerts and theatre performances. Mr. Tory is calling on the government to revive the popular Forum concert venue, a Toronto institution where rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry once performed on its revolving stage and where many people in the city first saw singers like k.d. lang.

The Forum, which sat 2,000 on rustic benches and the rest on grassy slopes at Ontario Place, was demolished in 1994 and the 16,000-seat Molson Amphitheatre rose in its place.

Tourism Minister Michael Chan did not respond to the report. Opposition members and union leaders criticized the report's proposal to set aside up to 15 per cent of the 40 hectares on Lake Ontario for residential development. They said any development would consist of high-rise condos.

New Democratic Party MPP Rosario Marchese, whose Trinity-Spadina riding includes Ontario Place, told reporters he is concerned Ontario Place will be sold off to the "lucky few" who can afford waterfront condos. "It will be a private space for millionaires," he said.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the public would have little or no access to the waterfront park. "Ontario Place, once the prime public event space in the province, will become nothing more than a playground for the rich," he said.

The park was a must-visit destination for residents and tourists when it first opened its doors 41 years ago. But the number of visitors has fallen sharply to just over 500,000 last summer –when admission was free – from 2.5 million during its heyday.

Story continues below advertisement

With a report from Elizabeth Church

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.