Tumbleweeds roll across the dusty ground of the Canadian Tire Center Parking Lot. Bones of long deceased livestock dot the landscape. Let’s Talk about the Ottawa Senators.
We’ve now entered that time of the hockey off season which can feel a little uneventful, to say the least. The NHL Draft is in the rear view mirror and while we’re technically still in the weeds of NHL Free Agency, we’ve gone through the busiest day. We’ve now moved onto things like Development Camp which should present some really exciting storylines but that’s about it. The Ottawa Senators have a lot of things brewing.
Not so much for the new ownership group of our beloved Ottawa Senators. Not even close!
One of, if not the biggest, decision Michael Andlauer will need to make is the location for the new arena. There are so many options on the table at this point: Lebreton Flats, Bayview, the old RCMP Headquarters, Hurdman, just to name a few, as well as a possible location in the downtown core. So I thought this would be a good time for a refresher course and break down where we stand when it comes to the possible arena locations. I’ll focus on the locations which I think are most likely to ensure this doesn’t quickly turn into a novel, as well as breaking it down into two different categories for your viewing pleasure!
1. Build New
This is the option which I’ve found to be more appealing since the beginning. I think about one of the many reasons the situation for the RedBlacks and 67s, amongst others playing here, has worked out so well is because when you’re planning on going to the game, you end up planning out an entire day. You arrive a few hours before the game and grab a bite to eat. Then you hit up one of the many shops there and fill a few bags with some awesome finds!
One of the biggest issues against the team’s current location is that once you’ve made the drive there, what else do you do? Go to the Tanger Outlet? Changing that and creating a “Lansdowne 2.0” vibe would inject so much life into the area and the team.
This is the option most people are familiar with, as it’s been a long standing desirable location dating back even to when Melnyk looked into it a few years back. This site has long been a priority for the city to turn into something as the land has been vacant for years and can be perceived as being more than a little gross to look at. One major issue with this location, though, is that it sits on land which was used for years by the Royal Canadian Mint as a dumping location for their waste, so the land there would need to be tested and deemed to be safe before work could even start. Another aspect would be that the current parcel of land is rather small, at just over 6 acres, although the National Capital Commission did recently discuss the fact that additional land could be provided.
Just west of Lebreton Flats, this could be one to keep an eye on, as it lies closer to the transit system and would offer more space to integrate retail and real estate. A strike against this location, though, is that it sits even further from the downtown core, so that could be less appealing.
Don’t sleep on this pick, if for no other reason than it is a massive location which affords you the opportunity to build up the area, as well as have space for parking. Slight hiccup at the moment would be that people still work here, but who knows what could change when it comes to existing downtown buildings being changed.
2. Demolish, Then Build
The discussion of Option 2 started more recently after the Mayor Mark Sutcliffe mentioned the desire to look hard into building downtown as a way to reinvigorate the downtown core. He mentioned that with government workers spending less time downtown as they transition to remote work, it will have a negative impact on the businesses which rely on that foot traffic and leave a number of buildings vacant. Now, there are a few different things you can also turn those buildings into, such as affordable housing, but I digress. Building downtown means that you’d have the opportunity to hit up the Byward Market before and after the game, go shopping at the Rideau Centre or one of the other boutiques as well as check out the Rideau Canal which at that point in the season, you may even be able to skate on!
Department of National Defence building
The location most often mentioned when it comes to this option has been the Department of National Defence building, which sits across the street from the Shaw Centre/Rideau Centre which would benefit greatly as it sits on the banks of the Rideau Canal, so I could see the appeal from that perspective. As much as the Mayor really prefers this point, even going so far as to pointing out that Toronto and Montreal have their arenas right downtown, I see this as a long shot at best, as the time and money that would need to go into demolishing a building before you can even start construction on a new arena just doesn’t line up with what I’d expect to see happen here.
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When we look at the options listed, we have to be open to the idea that the arena would be best placed outside the immediate downtown core. I know it isn’t what you want to hear, but making the alternative work would involve a tremendous amount of work and money and while the Andlauer group does have Claridge Homes as part of the ownership group, I think all parties involved would rather focus on building something new. So with that being said, I think the winning location is….