The Ottawa Senators organization was kind enough to reach out to the social community to arrange an opportunity to see the models of the RendezVous LeBreton plan and ask any questions directly to Cyril Leeder. I took them up on it, and here’s the result of my chat with him. Note that I had the chance to visit the model again later and chat with some of the other project leads to clarify and get location details on my answers from Leeder.
I knew one of the criticisms of the development of Lansdowne was that there were expectations that the stores and restaurants would be either local or new to Ottawa. Instead there were a lot of existing chains in the region brought in. I asked Leeder if there were plans to try and attract more local businesses or new chains to LeBreton.
He explained that there would certainly be a mix of existing and new businesses brought in. The LeBreton development is around 6-7x the size of the Lansdowne one, so there is plenty of room for businesses. For example, he mentioned that he could see say a TD Bank or Canadian Tire store brought in. On the flip side though, he mentioned that the strip along the Aqueduct would certainly try to have local and unique restaurants to visit.
I also asked whether or not there would be a location for any type of market, which are quite popular in Ottawa. Leeder explained how LeBreton is located in between the ByWard and Westboro market and there’s no reason to compete with them. However, one idea they are floating is a night market in the LeBreton Square area (beside the arena). Preston street is expected to be expanded as an overpass, thus covering the plaza. That’s the area the night market would be held. It wouldn’t be permanent, but it would be a re-occurring event, with each focusing on a specific culture, say Italian or Chinese, and sell foods and products from that culture.
One aspect of the RendezVous group’s proposal video that really stuck out to me was the high tech aspect of multimedia displays featuring holograms and lights. I asked for some details on that. Leeder mentioned that the company that would be in charge of the displays is Moment Factory (based out of Montreal), an offshoot of the Cirque du Soleil. They are a very accomplished company who were behind the light show for Superbowl as well as the original Parliament Hill light show. I took a look at their Wikipedia page, and their key projects are quite impressive. I asked Leeder whether or not there were any concerns about the reliability of the technology. He said there wasn’t, but of course there was the risk of the technology being outdated in a couple of years which is always a worry.
Leeder also made a point to mention the Crown Forest Walk area which he felt hasn’t been getting enough attention. It’s a multimedia green forest experience that will be on the roof edge of the arena.
A large number of fans that live in the West end, especially Kanata, are against an arena move for obvious location reasons. The arena is slated to open up in 2021, but the LRT isn’t scheduled to extend to Bayshore until 2023 (and even longer to Kanata). I asked Leeder if there was a plan for transporting those in Kanata to LeBreton during those two years before the LRT reaches Bayshore. He indicated that an interim solution is ready for that case. However, he also said his best guess is that the arena won’t be ready in 2021, it’s the best case scenario, and there’s always the possibility of delays. He mentioned they were in absolutely no rush, and would follow the timeline given by the NCC.
My last question was regarding the location of the arena. The RendezVous group has it located between the Bayview (west end) and Pimisi (east end) LRT stops at LeBreton. I asked Leeder what the walking distances from either station is to the arena. Obviously, during the summer, there’s no problem walking outside, but during a cold winter night, walking to the arena isn’t much fun. Turns out the distances are the same for both stations, a mere 500 metres. As a comparison, walking from the Bell Sensplex to the Canadian Tire Centre is 1.6km, so it would only be a third of that walk at LeBreton from an LRT station. Leeder also mentioned that the arena would be within walking distance of both Little Italy and Chinatown, giving people plenty of eating options prior to a game.
Having only read about the RendezVous group’s proposal online, it becomes much more impressive after seeing it in person and having a chance to talk with them about it. From a Sens fan’s perspective, it solves the biggest issue that the Canadian Tire Centre has. At LeBreton, fans can show up to a game an hour and a half early, maybe grab a bite at one of the restaurants alongside the Aqueduct, and can stay there until mere minutes before the game to walk to the arena. A big contrast from having to leave a restaurant at the Kanata Centrum almost an hour early so you can get a parking spot in time for the game. And then there’s after the game. Now you can grab a beer before jumping on the LRT instead of rushing to your car to beat traffic and get out of Kanata. It’s clear a downtown arena has to happen. Thanks again to the Ottawa Senators organization for offering this opportunity and acknowledging the presence of the Sens social community.