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NCC confident new Senators owner will want to build arena at LeBreton Flats

A rendering of what a new Ottawa Senators arena on LeBreton Flats could look like. (Capital Sports Development Inc.) A rendering of what a new Ottawa Senators arena on LeBreton Flats could look like. (Capital Sports Development Inc.)
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The head of the National Capital Commission is "quite confident" the Ottawa Senators will move ahead with plans to build a new arena at LeBreton Flats, adding the land just west of the downtown core is "shovel ready."

NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum says the NCC is extending the Senators' due-diligence period for the memorandum of understanding until the fall, following the announcement a group led by Michael Andlauer will become the new owner of the NHL club.

The NCC and Capital Sports Development Inc. announced in June, 2022 the signing of a memorandum of understanding towards the development of a major event centre at LeBreton Flats. The NCC had hoped to sign a long-term lease in the fall.

Since the NCC signed the memorandum of understanding with the Senators, the club was put up for sale and the Senators engaged in a six-month process to find a new owner.

Nussbaum says in the last couple of days, the Senators asked for an extension of the due diligence period.

"We, of course, agreed," Nussbaum told reporters following the NCC board of directors meeting.

"We understand that the new ownership group is going to need some time to figure things out and take a look at the MOU and engage with us on that. So we've extended that period through to the fall."

Nussbaum says he met with Andlauer in the spring when several prospective owners for the Ottawa Senators visited Ottawa.

"We're, of course, very excited to work with Mr. Andlauer and his partners. I know there's still a number of steps between confirmation and now, but we're hopeful and excited to work with them in the months to come."

In recent weeks, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has floated several other locations for a new arena between Bayview Yards and the Ottawa Baseball Stadium on Coventry Road. He has also mentioned a possible new location may open up in downtown Ottawa as the federal government looks to sell off some properties.

Nussbaum says it will be up to the new owners to decide where to build a new NHL-sized arena, but is confident LeBreton Flats is an ideal location.

"We're quite confident based on the fact that on two occasions we've put out requests for proposals or interest and twice the Senators team have felt that LeBreton Flats is a good site for them," Nussbaum said.

"I think that's a combination of the fact that it's a site that's shovel ready, it's in close proximity to two LRT stations, I think the fact that there is an opportunity and flexibility for lands beyond that which was defined in the MOU is important.

"Until otherwise notified, the message has been clear to us that there's strong interest in building an arena there."

Nussbaum was also asked about the mayor speculating on other locations in downtown Ottawa.

"I'm not aware of any sites of that size closer to the downtown core. I think there's an opportunity over the coming years with the building of the municipal-federal new public library, with the Zibi development, with the various phases that the NCC is initiating to really imagine that being sort of a part of a continuation of the downtown core," Nussbaum said.

"I'm certainly hopeful in the years to come that it could be a site that is very active, very animated and contributes to what I think Mayor Sutcliffe is hoping for."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and others have suggested the proposed 6.3 hectares of land at LeBreton Flats may be too small for a new arena. Nussbaum says there is more land available under the terms of the memorandum of understanding with the Senators.

"On the question of land, we've been clear that within the MOU there is an opportunity for flexibility. I think that's important; that was a message we sent to all the short-listed groups, including Mr. Andlauer," Nussbaum said.

"So there is an opportunity for us to explore that flexibility in the context of the discussions of the MOU towards a lease agreement."

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