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Talks between Sens, NCC continue on new arena, but NCC has 'Plan B'

A rendering of what a new Ottawa Senators arena at LeBreton Flats could look like. (Capital Sports Development Inc.) A rendering of what a new Ottawa Senators arena at LeBreton Flats could look like. (Capital Sports Development Inc.)
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The head of the National Capital Commission remains optimistic that the Ottawa Senators will eventually build an arena at LeBreton Flats, but he says there is a Plan B if the hockey club decides to go elsewhere.

CEO Tobi Nussbaum said he had no major updates Thursday when speaking to reporters, but said talks between the NCC and the Senators organization continue.

"Obviously, on their side, a lot of work to do determining their needs and their financial model," he said.

Last September, the NCC gave a one-year extension to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) it had entered into with Capital Sports Development after Michael Andlauer took over ownership of the club. Nussbaum said Thursday there is "no ultimatum" for the talks, but he remains hopeful to have a deal by the fall.

"There's no question that there will be a point at which that we'll have to have a lease or not," Nussbaum said. "I can't say with 100 per cent certainty when that is. Is it September? I certainly hope so. That's our hope that we can get all the work done by then."

The discussion around a future arena for the Senators was revived this week when the federal budget indicated movement to dispose of unused federal properties, some of which are in downtown Ottawa. That led Mayor Mark Sutcliffe to again float the idea that an arena could be built somewhere other than LeBreton Flats, a suggestion he has raised several times before.

"Maybe we can have a new park downtown, maybe we can have other attractions downtown and, maybe, we can have a conversation about a downtown arena," Sutcliffe said Wednesday. "If the Senators are interested in exploring a downtown option, I think it would be great for the downtown core."

Nussbaum told reporters he still believes LeBreton will be the final decision.

"From the NCC's perspective, we've had two processes over the last 10 years where the team has indicated a very strong interest in siting an arena at LeBreton Flats," said Nussbaum.

Nussbaum cited the strong transit accessibility and proximity to Gatineau as major reasons why he believes the Senators are interested in LeBreton Flats, but stressed that, ultimately, it's up to the team to decide where to go.

'We have a Plan B'

Nussbaum also indicated that should the Senators decide to build a new arena somewhere else, LeBreton Flats won't sit fallow.

"Our first hope was to have a major attraction, a major event centre there, but should that not happen, there is a Plan B for those parcels within LeBreton Flats," he said. "There's a great need for housing and mixed use development in the city so, if, at some point, the two sides are not able to come to an agreement or the Senators make a decision that they're not going to build there, then yes, absolutely, we'll have to move to our second option."

Whatever happens, Nussbaum said LeBreton Flats is still going to grow.

"This is not a competition. If they change their mind, we have a Plan B. We've got a plan for mixed use development along Albert Street and we will proceed apace with the development of LeBreton Flats as a whole," he said. "LeBreton Flats is growing. It's going to become part of the downtown core. I think the distinction between LeBreton Flats and downtown is really going to disappear over the coming years."

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