Ottawa Senators land fresh deal for new downtown arena

The development of a new arena for the Ottawa Senators has returned to the table years after the collapse of a previous proposal in acrimonious circumstances, after Capital Sports Development Inc. (CSDI), a group led by the NHL ice hockey team, was chosen to develop land at the LeBreton Flats area of the Canadian city.

CSDI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Capital Commission (NCC), the Crown corporation responsible for development, urban planning, and conservation in Canada’s Capital Region, which will focus on the development of a major event centre at LeBreton Flats.

While detailed timelines and financial plans were not revealed during yesterday’s (Thursday’s) announcement, CSDI is proposing to build an NHL hockey arena and events venue surrounded by mixed-use development.

CSDI’s concept for an arena facility is still in the very early stages, and will be developed further over the coming months. While CSDI works to further elaborate on their concept and create an implementation plan, on the basis of the MoU, the NCC and CSDI will also work toward the goal of signing a long-term lease agreement by autumn 2023.

The NCC said the lease agreement will include commercial terms, as well as clear targets related to sustainability, affordable housing and benefits for the Algonquin Nation. In parallel, CSDI will also work with the City of Ottawa to secure the required municipal approvals.

CSDI’s proposal involves Sterling Project Development (SPD), a real estate management and advisory group experienced in working with professional sports teams on sports facilities and mixed-use development. SPD recently completed UBS Arena, the new home of the New York Islanders NHL franchise.

Global architectural design firm Populous; Tipping Point Sports, a boutique sports finance and advisory firm; and US entertainment giant Live Nation are also involved in the venture.

The NCC’s request for expressions of interest to seek major attractions at LeBreton Flats was launched in December, and attracted multiple submissions. The NCC said that after careful review with the intent of securing a feasible and successful project, CSDI was identified as the preferred proponent.

“This announcement marks a significant move towards our long-term vision, a downtown arena at LeBreton Flats,” said Anthony LeBlanc, president of business operations for the Ottawa Senators.

“We believe that this development will have a major impact on both the Nation Capital Region and our franchise, one that will help to shape the future of the city. We thank the NCC for their collaboration and look forward to working alongside them as we take the next steps on this exciting journey.”

Tobi Nussbaum, CEO of the National Capital Commission, added: “This is another important step in the implementation of our Building LeBreton plan: the start of an incredibly exciting and transformative city-building project that will become a landmark and major destination in the National Capital Region.

“We look forward to working with the team at CSDI to bring this major event centre to life.”

Yesterday’s announcement came after the end of a previous arena proposal for LeBreton Flats in 2018 amid significant disagreements between the stakeholders involved.

An 18,000-seat downtown arena had been planned as the centrepiece of a major redevelopment of LeBreton Flats, an area of Ottawa that has been vacant since the 1960s. In April 2016, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who died in March of this year, and his RendezVous LeBreton group won the right to build the new arena as part of a C$4bn (£2.51bn/€2.93bn/$3.08bn) development in association with Trinity Developments.

Ottawa’s Mayor, Jim Watson, who also sits on the NCC board of directors, has praised the new agreement. “Nothing is easy with LeBreton Flats,” Watson said, according to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. “But, at the end of the day, the NCC has brought forward a plan that is realistic.

“The easy thing to do when things went south last time would be to pick up your notepad and your chequebook and leave. And you didn’t do that. It’s an opportunity for us to thank the Senators for not giving up on this proposal.”

The Senators have played in the 18,600-seat Canadian Tire Centre since 1996, but its location in the suburb of Kanata has made it unpopular with fans.

Images: Ottawa Senators/Populous