Bruce Firestone’s Original Vision: Coming Real Soon Now?

28 Nov

I posted a precursor of the following at Bruce’s blog.

Original-Six arenas such as Maple Leaf Gardens, the Montreal Forum and Boston Garden had an operating lifetime of 70-80 years. Early expansion arenas such as The Igloo, Winnipeg Arena, and Le Colisee had an operating lifetime of 50 years. The operating lifetime of two of the three arenas ending with the NHL teams leaving, and with The Igloo nearly facing the same fate. Pacific Coliseum and The Cap had operating lifetimes in the range of 25-35 years. Northlands Coliseum was built in 1974 and is now obsolete. Calgary’s SaddleDome is getting pretty long in the tooth.

All this to say the following: Scotiabank Place is now middle-aged at 15. Bruce’s what-if is not just a coulda-woulda-shoulda. Given the snail’s pace of change in Ottawa, the time to start considering its replacement is now, not 15 years from now. It’s also best to do so without involving the NCC.

While John Martin may have a pipe dream up an orifice regarding developing a football stadium on city-owned land at Bayview Yards, given the freight-train of money and political power behind the Lansdowne development (which, after football fails again, means The Glebe wins again: sorry folks) it does point to an interesting scenario brought up by Bruce Firestone. Bayview has everything needed for an urban hockey arena, including a new light rail system opening in 2017 that will move up to 25000 people per direction per hour,  and has a footprint larger than Madison Square Garden (in fact, larger than MSG + Penn Station combined!).

Bayview Yards with a 22000 seat arena.

A larger Scotiabank Place superimposed on Bayview Yards. It fits!

A bonus is that the core parcel of land is owned by the City of Ottawa, not by the NCC, with privately owned land, the ugly City Centre, nearby.

Let’s approximately halve that for comfortable ingress or egress, not rush hour crush. It still means that an entire arena population of 22,500 (assuming a larger arena, as that would be part of the point) can be assembled or discharged using public transit in about 45 minutes, which is faster than what happens today at Scotiabank Place, primarily using cars. It also means that such a location becomes a much better venue for other bookings, especially urban-sensitive bookings such as conventions and trade shows, making such an arena potentially viable even without an NHL team.

Scotiabank place likely has 15 years left in it. By then team will need a new arena to suit new needs (transportation, demographics, etc.). Winnipeg, a city with a metropolitan population half the size of Ottawa (and that’s not even including the migrants who come to see the Habs and Leafs), built a stadium in an urban area largely with private money, in an arena that doesn’t need the Jets, and the Jets didn’t need an arena to be built at public cost (cough Quebec cough Edmonton) because the arena was already viable before the Jets. The team is more viable because of this (viable even with a 15,100 seat arena), and the ownership is viable even if the Jets falter (see success of MTS Centre independent of the Jets).

If the Senators are to stay in Ottawa for the long term, it will be because the viability of the team will be independent of the arena it plays in, and vice versa, the resulting symbiosis being two equally healthy organizations that stand well on their own and stand even better together. This is what works, from marriages on up.

As it stands now, the Senators need Scotiabank Place and Scotiabank Place needs the Senators. That is codependent. It is not healthy for the team or for the city it plays in.

Time for The Huge Euge to step up and start thinking longer term.

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Senators


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