Why Scotiabank Place Is Where It Is (Part 2)

Posted on Sunday 8 November 2009

I was asked recently on a local radio show about why Scotiabank Place (SBP) is where it is and why it isn’t at Lansdowne Park. My comments on the show were part of a 20-year record of mine explaining the rationale behind the location of the arena where the Sens play. I also summarized it for a local newspaper and put it on this blog at: http://www.eqjournalblog.com/?p=261.

The main reason SBP isn’t downtown at Lansdowne is that in 1989/90 when we were making that decision, we just didn’t feel we could put another 2 million visits per year into an established community, especially one without a subway or light rail connection.

Having said this, the case for a CFL team might be different since a CFL team has played at Lansdowne for the last Century and so it is an existing (or pre-existing) condition.

We are also talking about a different scale—CFL teams play 9 home games plus 1 exhibition game per year. They also may have one playoff home date. A major new arena had to have at least 150 events per year to justify its existence. We are looking at an order of magnitude difference.

I was also asked about the viability of the CFL team. As I understand the current proposal by Lansdowne Live, they plan to have the CFL team run by the owner of the Ottawa 67s, Jeff Hunt. Many observers felt that Junior Hockey was doomed in Ottawa with the return of the Ottawa Senators but Jeff Hunt has led a remarkable renaissance of the junior team with unsurpassed marketing smarts*. If anyone can make CFL football work in Ottawa, it is Jeff Hunt.

(* How about enjoying a 67s game at 10:30 am with 9,000 screaming kids from local schools in attendance? Who would have thought that a major junior game starting at that time of the day would be a huge success not only in terms of attendance but also in terms of creating the next generation of 67s fans?)

Still, if the City is going to go ahead with the re-development of Lansdowne Park by endorsing the Lansdowne Live proposal as well as go forward with its $6.5 billion light rail plan, it would make sense to hook up all of our MCF’s, Major Community Facilities—everything including the new convention centre, any relocated trade show space, SBP, the airport and, of course, Lansdowne Park.

I can’t imagine any other city would plan to spend this kind of money on rapid transit and not hook up its major outdoor stadium. Perhaps it might be possible to run light rail along surface streets like they do elsewhere. Calgary’s light rail system seems to be able to do that satisfactorily.

I think light rail is the right way to go—can you think of a major city anywhere that does not have a subway or light rail system or is not planning to get one? The question one has to ask though is the one that Andy Haydon raised—is this the right time to do it?

After the failure to get light rail off the ground (so to speak) with the cancellation of the plan to put it into the fast growing southern part of this City, maybe Ottawa should have turned its collective mind to completing the bus transitway. We have a terrific bus system but, like so many other Ottawa initiatives, we never finished the system.

The idea was that you could get on a bus in Kanata, Orleans or Barrhaven and get downtown on the Transitway without your bus ever mixing with automobile traffic.

Perhaps Ottawa would be wiser to make the investment needed to complete the Transitway before we go after light rail?

That doesn’t solve the problem of better public transit access for Lansdowne Park but there is nothing in the current plan to connect light rail to the Park anyway.

Prof Bruce

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