Ottawa Sens founder says NCC 'righting a historic wrong'
Published Friday, April 29, 2016 5:11PM EDT Last Updated Friday, April 29, 2016 6:52PM EDT
The founder of the Ottawa Senators Bruce Firestone says the National Capital Commission is righting a wrong from 30 years ago. They initially turned down the idea of locating the team downtown, but that is about to change.
It was a dream a generation ago for the group that brought hockey back to Ottawa to build a stadium at LeBreton Flats. But Firestone says better late than never.
From the corner of the fence surrounding the LeBreton site, you can just hear the screech of seagulls now but you can imagine the shriek of Sens fans in a few years from now.
Bruce Firestone was in his late 30's when he took on the team, and opened the Palladium in the far west regions of Ottawa. Now, a few decades older, Firestone is fired up about the Sens downtown and the developers behind it.
“This project will transform Ottawa,” he says, something he had hoped to do in the 1990’s.
“We met with NCC back in the day and they weren't interested in having an NHL arena there,” Firestone says, “they said “I'm sure it will be nice but it's just a hockey rink,” and we know now they had change of heart.”
That change of heart means the RendezVous LeBreton group can pursue their dream of developing the 21 hectares of land into a destination for hockey fans, shoppers and residents.
“RendezVous has strong plan,” says Mark Kristmanson, the chief executive of the NCC, “a strong urban plan of how five neighborhoods will fit in the city, and how the arena will fit vis-a-vis the light rail stations.”
But that is still years away. Negotiations, municipal approvals and federal government signoffs could take up to five years and the site needs remediation work. Some of the land has already been cleaned up but other areas will require a lot more work. All of that will play a part in how quickly this build goes.
Just blocks away on the old Domtar site, Windmill Development will be shovel ready on its Zibi project in a few weeks. It, too, is working with the NCC and welcomes yesterday's announcement.
“We are really, both groups, about filling the hole in middle of the donut so to speak,” says Jonathan Westeinde, the CEO of the Windmill Development Group, “Ottawa developed around what was the core of the city and now the core is getting filled in and so we are both interested in trying to drive as many people as possible down to that area.”
The councillor for the area says that's great as long as they leave their cars behind.
“We have to make sure what is built is not car-oriented,” says councillor Catherine McKenney, “but people-oriented.”
Residents have been waiting a long time for something to happen on this site. McKenney says this is a blank slate and we need to make sure we get it right.