The firm that built the signature wooden ‘veil’ on TD Place stadium went bankrupt. Other contractors are suing for millions. James Bagnall reveals the legal scars left by Lansdowne Park’s facelift.
James Bagnall, Ottawa Citizen
One of Eric Sommer’s greatest joys is creating wood structures that transform ordinary buildings, infusing them with new shapes and warmth.
It was his company — Spring Valley Classic Custom — that installed the signature wooden veil that envelops the south side of TD Place, the rebuilt stadium at the heart of a reborn Lansdowne Park.
Sommer translated the inspiration of architect Robert Claiborne into a lattice of wood and steel so precise that nowhere is there a spot for water to collect and begin the process of decay. The structure, which incorporates more than 12 kilometres of Alaskan yellow cedar, should age gracefully.
“It’s a work of art,” Sommer said wistfully from his company headquarters in Jerseyville, a small town just west of Hamilton.
The $7-million job should have been the pinnacle of Sommer’s 27-year career.
Instead, it ruined him.
Spring Valley filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 28. Seventy workers lost their jobs.
“I won’t bring my family to Ottawa to see what we built,” Sommer said afterwards. “I couldn’t bear it.”
Eric Sommer at the office of his now-bankrupt company in Jerseyville, Ont. GLENN LOWSON / OTTAWA CITIZEN
Sommer lost everything after putting his “heart and soul” into building the one structure at Lansdowne that would become a landmark in the city. But while bankruptcies are not uncommon in the complex world of large-scale construction, Spring Valley was far from the only firm on the Lansdowne site that saw large invoices unpaid.