Pros, cons and head-scratchers: The possible new NHL arena locations in Ottawa
An old city works yard, the woefully under-used baseball stadium, even the Department of National Defence tower on Colonel By Drive could soon be home to the Ottawa Senators.
Despite the fact the Ottawa Senators inked a preliminary deal with the National Capital Commission (NCC) last summer to build a new arena on a portion of land on the western end of LeBreton Flats, there are a number of alternate rink sites being floated in public.
Some suggestions have been around for years, stemming from the last time the Senators looked at relocating to the centre of the city from Kanata. Others have been suggested by journalists reporting on the behind-the-scenes bids to buy the local franchise. Some have been suggested recently by the mayor of Ottawa himself.
All locations, even LeBreton, have their pros and cons. And some suggestions elicit raised eyebrows and head scratching.
As a starting point, consider the arena and lands at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata is 32 hectares, or 80 acres, including the vast parking lots. That's bigger than all of LeBreton Flats, which is about 29 hectares. New owners could decide to stay there indefinitely or while they negotiate some sort of land deal.
It's also key to know the footprints of exiting arenas. Winnipeg's Canada Life Centre, one of the league's most compact arenas, takes up just 1.27 hectares, or about three acres. Montreal's Bell Centre — with one of the league's largest seat capacity— takes up 1.6 hectares, or a little under 4 acres, of downtown land.
Here's the lowdown on the most-mentioned possible alternate arena sites. (Land areas and other information taken from the city's GeoOttawa site, unless otherwise noted.)
LeBreton land on offer
Location: Albert Street, between Preston Street and City Centre Avenue.
Area: 2.56 hectares or 6.3 acres, according to NCC's website
Pros: Relatively centrally located, and within walking distance of two LRT stations — Pimisi and Bayview — although not attached to either. And while a memorandum of understanding between the NCC and the Sens isn't binding on the new owners, it's a process that is well underway, meaning it's likely the fastest place to build a new arena (which will take years). The NCC is also in the process of developing the Albert Street district over the next several years.
Cons: As NHL commissioner Gary Bettman not-so-subtly pointed out when he was in town on Monday, some consider the land to be "a bit small." The property would accommodate the arena, but not much other real estate development that often subsidizes rink costs in smaller markets. There may be an option to add more NCC land to the existing deal, for a price of course. There's also not much capacity for parking, although there would be some parking at the City Centre.
City-owned lands mentioned by mayor
Last week, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe suggested on TSN1200 there are other options for an arena that aren't LeBreton Flats. He specifically named the city-owned lands at Bayview Yards, the RCGT Park baseball stadium property around the Hurdman transit station.
Using municipal land raises the significant question of whether the city would sell the land or partner with the new owners. It's much too early to discuss any of these issues, said Sutcliffe. And when asked specifically if anyone had approached him or his office about putting an arena at any of these locations, he said definitively, "no."
Location: Land north of Scott Street and west of Bayview Avenue
Area: 5.42 hectares or 13.4 acres
Pros: On both the east-west and north-south rail transit systems. At twice the size of the LeBreton property, Bayview offers new owners more space for a real-estate play to help subsidize the arena. Or perhaps the city can strike a deal for more affordable housing. Either way, there's more development opportunity at this site than at the proposed LeBreton site just on the other side of Bayview station.
Cons: Area is farther from downtown, and not near any sort of built-up commercial strip. In fact, it's not even near a planned commercial strip. And like LeBreton, not a lot of commercial parking nearby or major arterial road capacity.
RCGT Park baseball stadium
Location: 302 Coventry Rd.
Area: 6.57 hectares or 16.2 acres
Pros: This property gives new owners more than two-and-a-half times the land to play with than at LeBreton. The transportation options are also ideal, as the site is accessible to the LRT, HIghway 417 and the Vanier Parkway. There's also more opportunity for parking.
Cons: Location. This is hardly the vibrant downtown locale boasted by so many other league franchises, nor does it offer much opportunity to create an urban entertainment and hospitality district.
Location: Hurdman transit hub
Area: 10 hectares or 24 acres, but in an hourglass shape
Pros: This big — if oddly shaped — city property offers opportunity for some sort of development and possible parking. And, of course, it's right on the LRT line.
Cons: This site scores poorly in the dynamic-urban city building category. It's well outside the core with little chance of being developed into a new vibrant entertainment community. The city has identified these lands, as well as the surrounding NCC properties, as potential areas for affordable housing, but it's hard to see how the NCC will comes on board if the city puts an arena there.
Floating federal lands options
Aside from NCC-controlled LeBreton, a number of federal properties keep coming up as potential arena sites. Some of the locations had been looked at in earlier attempts to find a downtown arena site, and resurface every few years. Others seem to be wild rumours.
It must be said that the feds have not indicated a modicum of interest in selling or leasing any of these properties. Negotiations for these lands would take years, if they ever got off the ground. And the feds won't cut any sort of deal for an NHL team, either, especially after denying Quebec City any federal funds for their rink.
Location: 1200 Vanier Parkway
Area: 15 hectares or 37 acres
Pros: The site is massive and shares the same transportation upsides as the city's baseball stadium.
Cons: The main structure is a recognized federal heritage building. And, according to the RCMP, more than 1,000 people still work there.
DND downtown complex
Location: 101 Colonel By Dr., just north of the Laurier Avenue Bridge
Area: Two hectares or five acres
Pros: Great central location overlooking the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Public parking options nearby.
Cons: It's actually smaller than the current LeBreton offering, and heritage folks may have some issues with rink designs and a profile overlooking the heritage-protected canal (as they did with the Shaw Centre). There's also the fact that 1,675 Department of National Defence employees currently work there, if on a hybrid basis.
LeBreton at Booth Street
Location: On Albert Street, just west of Booth Street
Area: TBD, but likely larger than the 2.56 hectares of the current LeBreton proposal
Pros: Closer to downtown — the location has a more centre-ice feel to it — than the proposed arena site. Right at Pimisi station that could possibly be connected to the events complex. Opportunity for more real estate, and can take advantage of the 200 parking spots at the new central library.
Cons: Would require the NCC and its board to revisit the LeBreton Flats master plan to swap land around. Would also funnel transit-riding visitors to a single LRT station.
Location: Elgin Street, between the National Arts Centre and Laurier Avenue West
Area: 2.5 hectares or 6.2 acres
Pros: This is a dream location, right in the middle of downtown action. It's on transit and near plenty of public parking, not to mention Elgin Street bars and restaurants, and the Rideau Centre. It's about the same size as the parcel being offered at LeBreton Flats.
Cons: The wildest of the wildcard possible arena locations being floated out there. The park is the only open green space in the area — the next closest greenery is Major's Hill Park — and it's hard to see what would possess the NCC, which oversees Confederation Park, to part with it.
South Sandy Hill
Location: 2 Robinson Ave. and 320 Lees Ave.
Area: 2.2 hectares or 5 acres, according to a city of Ottawa report
Pros: A pie-shaped slice of land on Robinson, just east of Nicholas Street, attached to a rectangular chunk hugs Lees Avenue. A Montreal-based developer has a council-approved plan for a mixed-use development with four highrises here. It's relatively central, near the University of Ottawa and the Lees LRT station. with access to Hwy 417.
Cons: Even though it's closer to downtown than some of the other locations swirling around the rumour mill, it's hard to see a new arena plopped into the largely residential Sandy Hill community. It's also not clear which, if any, bidding group is lobbying for this location.