La Machine sequel in the works for Ottawa

The organizers behind last summer's monster hit La Machine are looking to bring the show back to Ottawa.

An estimated 750,000 people thronged the capital's streets over four days last July to watch Long Ma, the fire-breathing dragon-horse, and Kumo, the giant mechanical spider, do battle. The $4.5-million spectacle was by far the most successful event marking Canada's 150th birthday in Ottawa.

"It was definitely our ball out of the park," Ottawa 2017 executive director Guy Laflamme told CBC News. "It was the biggest and probably one of the most complex artistic production in Ottawa history."

Laflamme has just returned from France, where he met with the production company behind La Machine to discuss bringing the spectacle back to Ottawa as soon as 2020.

Ottawa Tourism will now lead the effort to attract La Machine and other popular Ottawa 2017 events back to the capital, with private partnerships and revenue from a new hotel tax expected to pick up the tab covered last year by one-time funding for Canada's sesquicentennial celebrations.

Entirely new show

Laflamme said the French Embassy paid for the bulk of his trip to Nantes, France, where he was accompanied by a representative from Ottawa Tourism and a member of the mayor's staff.

They discussed bringing La Machine back to Ottawa in 2020 or 2021, he said — a long enough wait to whet the public's appetite for more.

"You don't want to repeat that kind of event every two years. You need more time so people are really anxious and looking forward to it," Laflamme said.

The show would likely feature new machines, Laflamme said, because François Delarozière's street theatre company doesn't want to put on a carbon copy of the 2017 show.

Scouting new locations

New locations are also being scouted between LeBreton Flats and the ByWard Market. 

The lawn in front of the Supreme Court of Canada proved too tight for the crowd last summer, Laflamme said, so they're looking for larger open spaces such as Chaudière Island.

It would cost roughly $500,000 just to ship the machines to Ottawa, Laflamme said, but that cost could drop if other North American cities stage the show.

Other events could return

Other events likely to make a return to the capital include the Red Bull Crashed Ice downhill skating championship, likely in 2020.

Red Bull Global Rallycross, Sky Lounge, Ottawa Welcomes the World, Agri-150 and Mìwàte Illumination of Chaudière Falls are some of the other events that could come back in 2018. 

Ottawa Tourism now has a staff member dedicated to transitioning Ottawa 2017 events to private companies and groups that will keep them alive.

"Ottawa Tourism doesn't want to be in the business of hosting events," said Ottawa 2017 co-chair Steve Ball. "We see ourselves as a bit of an incubator to look at transitioning events."

New hotel tax could help

Ball, who's also president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, said a new accommodation tax paid by tourists will help subsidize Ottawa Tourism's efforts.     

Last year the province gave municipalities the authority to charge tourists a four per cent tax on accommodation, and Ottawa hotels and motels moved ahead with that change on Jan. 1.

Ball expects the tax will add $12 million to local coffers, a quarter of which will go toward developing tourism events.

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La Machine sequel in the works for Ottawa