Senators get another chance to build square at LeBreton Flats


The well-to-do residents of Ottawa Gatineau have already watched this movie, including the stunning promotional photos.

This time, they’re hoping for a different ending… an ending to the good old hockey game that involves the puck falling out.

Don’t look now, but Ottawa senators are back in the process of building a new NHL circuit just west of the Houses of Parliament in a no-man’s-lander known as LeBreton Flats.

On Thursday, the National Capital Commission announced that senators had selected the bidder to build a large facility on 7.5 acres in Lebreton. The proposed arena/event center is located on Albert Street between Preston and City Center Avenue. There are other unannounced offers for construction here.

The Senators, Chief Operating Officer Anthony LeBlanc, representing Capital Sports Development Inc. (CSDI, aka The Senators), and Irene Crowe, the club’s Chief Financial Officer, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to lease this land from CNC. You have up to 15 months to finalize the details of this lease. This is scheduled for the fall of 2023.

LeBlanc and Crowe, as well as all NCC Board members speaking, noted the high level of cooperation between the parties this time around. Ultimately, senators hope to play hockey where they belong – in a central location, near transit stations.

“The fact that senators are looking for an opportunity to get closer to the heart of the city is the worst thing hidden in the city,” LeBlanc said. “It was something we discussed collectively – was it something we still wanted to do? And the answer was always yes.”

Another key figure behind the senators’ idea of ​​approaching the heart of the city is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. He has said this many times, most recently in the Stanley Cup Final.

Major Jim Watson, who is often at odds with the late Senate owner Eugene Melnick, praised the NHL team for sticking to the process when an earlier plan failed spectacularly. More importantly, it was Melnyk who brought the team name back to the LeBreton race before his death in March. Melnyk’s daughters, Anna and Olivia, currently serve on the franchise’s board of directors.

“I think we have a winner here,” Watson said, describing the offer as a win not just for the team, but for the City of Ottawa and the National Capital Territory.

No programs or fixed costs

How long before fans get off the train at Bemisy station and tour the brand new NHL circuit for a game between the Maple Leafs and the Senators?

It’s too early to tell. But LeBlanc said he expects senators to continue playing their game at the Canadian Tire Center in Kanata for “a few years” until the new facility is ready.

The exact cost is also unknown. The next step in the process is a detailed lease agreement that will include input from First Nations staff (LeBreton Flats is located on traditional Algonquin grounds) and a climate risk assessment.

According to NCC CEO Toby Nussbaum, the concept of the plaza is to be green and “innovative”. There won’t even be a large parking lot (expect private parking). Fans and revelers are expected to walk here from the city center or take the LRT to one of the nearby stations in Bayview or Pimisi. How about this third option – canoeing or canoeing from a canal to an ice rink.

“If you look at facilities currently under construction, the days of acres and thousands of acres of parking around the facility are over, especially in urban areas,” LeBlanc said. “The most exciting thing about this site is, frankly, the proximity to the rest of the community, but also the LRT stations on either side of the square and the ease of walking to get to the installation.

Crowe discussed the cost of the new facility and who will pay for it.

“Remember, we have been working with NCC in a period of silence for the past two months… we are currently in this phase of our lease due diligence negotiations and with that, the financing and how it is financed.

“In a development like this, there are many sources of funding that we will examine and study very carefully. »

Crowe said the new NHL home runs provide a basis for comparison. For New York Islanders, for example, the cost of the new facility is $1.1 billion, which is roughly the same as the cost of a new ice rink in Seattle.

But Crowe cautioned that every facility is different, and cited the joint Live Nation’s involvement as an important consideration—it would be more than just a hockey arena, it would be a venue for concerts and festivals.

Crowe said it’s too early to say whether public funding will be included. Sterling Project Development noted there will be extensive cost and funding talks with new partners from design firm Populous, Tipping Point Sports and Live Nation.

NCC President Mark Seaman confirmed that Senate Square and the Events Center is only part of the LeBreton development, accounting for approximately 10% of the 71-acre development that includes residential and commercial spaces.

“It’s a place where people can live, work and play,” Seaman said. “Vision is part of an exciting vision. It has a mix of parks, waterways, residential and commercial units and now has a large events center. »

That day was part of the plan everyone was talking about.

“This is an important step,” Seaman said. Consider this the first of many steps in this process. But it is an important first step.

Following the official announcement at the NAC meeting, key members met with the media for a question-and-answer period. Senator Lee Blank and Crowe did the same.

How is this plan different from RendezVous LeBreton’s 2016 plan (which Eugene Melnyk is partnered with) pissed everyone off before it ended in 2019?

Second, the project was an “all or nothing” proposition. When it fell apart, LeBreton’s entire plan fell through. This time the land is developed in stages and parts. For example, the development of a large new public library in this area is currently underway.

Global Partners

The second aspect of this proposal: Instead of local businesses participating in the RendezVous app, senators benefited from key business and sports partners. CNC’s vice president of real estate and development described these companies as “premier partners”. The experience and deep pockets of these partners assured NCC that this plan was more realistic.

NCC described the different partners involved as follows.

• Sterling Project Development (SPD), a property management and consulting group with experience working with professional sports teams in sports facilities and mixed-use development. SPD recently completed UBS Arena, the islanders’ new home

• Populous is a global design firm that designs major sports venues such as the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, the Videotron Center in Quebec City, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England.

• Tipping Point Sports, a sports finance and consulting firm focused on transformative public-private partnerships for mixed-use sports developments.

• Live Nation, the world’s first party and festival producing entertainment company.

Will this really happen?

Of course, senators of this size went all the way to LeBreton. In 2016, RendezVous Lebreton was declared the winner and had the same opportunity to negotiate a development deal. That plan fell through in 2019 when then-owner Melnyk failed to come to terms with Trinity Development, run by John Ruddy, in an outrageous settlement that led to a civil lawsuit and counterclaim.

To what extent are Senators and the National Coordinating Committee convinced that this plan will actually bear fruit? He’s totally self-assured, according to anyone who’s tackled this question. Different players now. There is no longer a different plan where senators focus on their little piece of the pie.

“I think they (NCC) are using the term micro-cutting,” LeBlanc said. “Here’s the gnawing – this is a meter, this is our experience.

“We brought the right partners together, it’s the right time and it’s the right size for this to happen.”

This is the right call for a team of Senators who have had their fair share of bad luck on and off the ice in the past few years.

Sensation needs good news. They received it that day.