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Ottawa police walking the streets of Sandy Hill ahead of Sunday's Panda Game

The Panda Game is a fall tradition on the football field, both universities are hoping the action off the field is different this year.

Carleton University and the University of Ottawa are hoping the excessive street parties that have seen vandalism and arrests do not spill out into the Sandy Hill neighbourhood again.

It was a ruckus scene after the Panda Game in 2021. Police were caught off guard when thousands of students gathered on streets in Sandy Hill, culminating with partiers flipping a car onto its roof.

After last year's game, seven students were arrested and almost 100 tickets issued from open alcohol violations and noise infractions.

Jan Finlay is with Action Sandy Hill. She hopes this year will be different.

"They were out in front of my house all evening," says Finlay. "Three thousand students in two blocks. Three thousand partiers in two blocks, drunk."

That's why Ottawa police officers are out this week knocking on doors in the neighbourhood.

"There will be zero tolerance," says Sébastien Lemay, OPS Community Police Officer. "So there will be alcohol pour-outs and fines that can be issued for offenses under the Liquor License Act. We hope it will not get to that point, but if arrests need to be made for criminal code violations such as mischief, causing a disturbance, and other criminal offences, that can be considered as well."

The city, both universities, student unions and the community have joined forces to launch a safety program.

They hope a pre-game and post game celebration on the Ottawa University campus will curtail street parties.

Another change is that the game is taking place on a Sunday instead of a Saturday.

"Kudos to the City, OSEG, UOttawa and Carleton," says Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stéphanie Plante. "They really did listen to the residents' concerns. They were going to have the party at the Sandy Hill Arena, but then they moved it on campus. These are the things that we wanted to sort of catnip the students to that area and try and keep them there."

For some who live in the area, like Louise Ebeltoft, they say efforts made by Ottawa police have made a difference.

"After the police presence that I saw last year and how committed they were to ensuring that it wasn't going to happen again, I was pretty relieved," says Ebeltoft.

The Panda Game at TD Place draws one of the biggest football crowds in Canada and students turn it into the biggest street party in the city. This year, there are signs it might be a bit toned down.

"I think most students learned from two or three years ago when they flip that car," says one University of Ottawa student. "I think everyone's more scared now and nobody really wants to cause any problems."

Another student adds that anything could happen come game day.

"The game is gonna be fun, but we're probably just gonna go out somewhere else like to the bars afterwards."

When asked if she would party in the streets, her answer was, "Maybe. We'll see how the night goes." Top Stories

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