The Ottawa Senators are the preferred bidder to build a major attraction at LeBreton Flats, clearing the way for an NHL arena on the land just west of downtown.
The National Capital Commission has reached a memorandum of understanding with a consortium led by the Senators to build an arena surrounded by mixed-use development on the six-acre parcel of land.
The NCC made the announcement at its board meeting Thursday morning. The goal is to sign a lease agreement for the site by the fall of 2023.
“This is just the first step in an incredibly exciting and transformational city-building project that will become a landmark at LeBreton Flats and in the national capital region,” Katie Paris, the head of the LeBreton Project, told the board.
The Senators-led consortium also includes Sterling Project Development, Populous, Tipping Point Sports and Live Nation.
Sterling is a real estate management firm completed UBS Arena, the new arena for the New York Islanders.
Populous is a design firm that has designed major sports facilities, such as the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.
Tipping Point Sports is a sports finance and advisory firm, and Live Nation is an entertainment company that produces concerts and festivals.
This is the Senators’ second crack at moving to LeBreton Flats. The first attempt ended a lawsuit between late owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Group, the developer on the project.
But officials insist things will be different this time around. NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum told reporters the commission was impressed with the completeness of the Senators’ proposal.
“They of course ticked all the required boxes,” he said. He also said the partners the team is bringing to the table as part of the bid gives him confidence it will be more successful than the previous attempt to build an arena at LeBreton Flats.
“These are folks with serious experience in building sports arenas and understanding entertainment, culture and sports,” he said. “The fact that they brought new partners who were not part of the earlier process, I think also gives us confidence that this is something that has been thought out as a thorough events centre with much more than hockey.”
Senators president of business operations Anthony LeBlanc said a move downtown is “critically important” for the Senators, and noted the partners they are bringing in were part of building the most recent NHL arenas in Las Vegas, Seattle and New York.
“We’re working with groups and partners that have done developments like this in multiple sports facilities,” LeBlanc said. “Once we finally put that group together, it just made complete sense.”
LeBlanc said it’s too early for estimates on how much the arena will cost or when it will open. Senators chief financial officer Erin Crowe said those questions will be part of the next phase of the project, which is due diligence and lease negotiation.
“With that, we will also bring stakeholders to the table to discuss the funding and how we finance this,” she said. “In a development such as this, there are multiple sources of funding that we will look at.”
NCC board chair Marc Seaman said there’s a “realistic but aggressive timeline” on the project.
In December, the NCC launched a request for expressions of interest for two parcels of land at LeBreton Flats, seeking “bold and transformational” ideas for attractions.
The first site is a six-acre parcel of land along Albert Street between City Centre Avenue and Preston Street, while the smaller site is a 1.2-acre parcel along the Ottawa River.
The NCC had released few details about the submissions to redevelop the land, only saying in April that it had received “multiple bids” for a major attraction.
Speaking with reporters before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the Senators were looking at a downtown rink.
“I know that the Senators are involved in a process in an attempt to see what the opportunity might be for a new arena at LeBreton Flats,” Bettman said on June 15.
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk passed away on March 28. Melnyk left the organization to his daughters, Anna and Olivia, and Bettman says the Senators are “completely stable and functioning in the ordinary course.”
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