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Ontario Place revival could include bids for urban spa and convention centre

Premier Doug Ford's government is gearing up to select the successful bidder who will transform Ontario Place into a "year-round" destination.

The submission period closed in late September, but there's still little public information about what the iconic waterfront site could become in the years ahead — prompting one city councilor to warn about the threat of a "backroom deal."

"We are going to bring Ontario Place back to life and once again make it a spectacular destination attracting local and international visitors year-round," said Derek Rowland, a spokesperson for Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Lisa MacLeod, in a statement.

"This could include exciting sport and entertainment landmarks, public spaces and parks, recreational facilities, as well as retail."

So which direction will provincial officials go?

With updates not coming until a "later date," and details about the submissions protected by non-disclosure agreements, it's hard to say — though condos and casinos have so far been ruled out.

Several possible contenders, however, are becoming clear.

Ontario Place revival could include bids for urban spa and convention centre

Range of possible contenders

Six months ago, developer Ken Tanenbaum and urban planner Joe Berridge of the Kilmer Group publicly released a transformational proposal for both Ontario Place and Exhibition Place — dubbed "OPX."

When asked by CBC Toronto if the company has since submitted a formal bid to the province, a spokesperson for Tanenbaum declined to comment based on "confidentiality."

According to the documents from earlier this year, the Kilmer Group's sweeping vision for the site includes an expanded convention centre, new LiveNation and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment event centre, indoor-outdoor waterpark, restaurant with a view of the lake, an urban farm, mixed-use development, and park space.

The plan also aims to re-purpose the Cinesphere and pods — and proposes moving the Ontario Science Centre to the Ontario Place grounds from its current location in North York.

An Austrian company known for developing massive indoor spas — complete with indoor and outdoor pools, palm trees and saunas — could also be hoping to open another "tropical paradise" at the Ontario Place site.

The city's lobbyist registry features multiple lobbying attempts over the last few months from consultants tied to Therme Group, all to "inform the City of a proposal in regards to Ontario Place."

Ontario Place revival could include bids for urban spa and convention centre

The company owns multiple spa locations around the world, including a 250,000-square-metre relaxation complex near Bucharest, Romania which features a 560-square-meter wave pool, 1,500 palm trees, and 30,000 square meters of sandy beach.

Meanwhile, Toronto businessman — and former World Wrestling Entertainment executive — Carl Demarco is definitely among the bidders, according to a Globe and Mail report.

His lawyer confirmed to the Globe that Demarco, who's a former manager for Canadian wrestling star Bret "The Hitman" Hart, is a participant in the province's process, and has assembled a team to meet the government's criteria for the site.

It's not clear what his vision is, but one thing is for sure, according to the report: it won't be wrestling-related.


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