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'We're not just building the arena for one tenant': Mayor defends proposed 5,500 seat arena at Lansdowne

Fans look on before the start of a PWHL game between Ottawa and Montreal in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS) Fans look on before the start of a PWHL game between Ottawa and Montreal in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe is confident a new 5,500 seat arena at Lansdowne Park will accommodate the off ice success of PWHL Ottawa in the years ahead, as questions are raised about the size of the arena for professional women's hockey.

The $419 million Lansdowne 2.0 includes a new north-side stands for TD Place and replacing the Civic Centre with a new 5,500 seat arena and event centre, with room for 1,000 standing room spots.

A public meeting to discuss the Lansdowne 2.0 plan will be held Tuesday night at TD Place. You can learn more about the event centre site plan and provide input from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

PWHL Ottawa led the league in attendance during the inaugural season, with an average of 7,495 fans for the 12 games at TD Place.

"This arena is going to serve a multitude of purposes; we're not just building an arena for PWHL Ottawa.," Sutcliffe told TSN Mornings on TSN 1200.

"Everybody is excited about the success of PWHL Ottawa; I'm thrilled with how it's gone and the atmosphere at their games and it brings out a different crowd, but they're going to use it for 15 nights a year out of 365."

Capacity at the Arena at TD Place is approximately 8,500 for hockey.

Sutcliffe says the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) have been discussing the arena's plans with officials from the Professional Women's Hockey League and PWHL Ottawa.

"It's not just about the seats, it's not just about selling tickets, it's also about the experience at the games, the atmosphere, the experience for the players who are now using very, very old-fashioned, outdated facilities at the current arena," Sutcliffe said.

"There's a lot of benefits for PWHL Ottawa here even if we end up with an arena that's a few hundred seats smaller than their ideal scenario. They can make it work and they're going to have a lot of benefits that come from this arena that they're very excited about."'

The new event centre at Lansdowne will also accommodate the Ottawa 67's, the Ottawa BlackJacks basketball team, concerts, shows and other sporting events in Ottawa.

"We're told the right size of the facility for those kinds of events is the 5,500 to 6,500 range and everybody will be able to adapt to that and there will be a great experience there," Sutcliffe said.

"You don't buy a dining room table for the size of the event you have on Christmas Day. You buy your dining room table for the size of your family whose going to be there eating dinner every night, not for the one or two times of year when you're going to have a much bigger crowd."

Sutcliffe says there are several factors at play that will allow the city and OSEG to "squeeze a few more seats into the arena," including expanded common areas.

Coun. Shawn Menard has been critical of the Lansdowne 2.0 plan and argues a smaller stadium is a concern for fans.

"The concern is really, we're going to be tearing down something that is valuable to put up something with less seats, more expensive tickets, without a roof over people's heads on the football stands anyways, and then for PWHL games and 67's games that sell out in the playoffs," Menard told CTV on Tuesday.

"it's a big concern for those fans." 

Moshe Lander, a professor in the department of economics at Concordia University, agrees the stadium plan doesn't account for a growing city.

"What might seem like a good idea now, in 10 to 20 years, when the city is 50 per cent larger than it is, it's really going to look small by comparison," Lander said.

"I think that's when they're really going to regret it because these arenas are intended to last a minimum of 35 to 40 years."

The approved concept plan for the Lansdowne 2.0 project. (City of Ottawa)

Drop in attendance?

The mayor says he hopes PWHL Ottawa's success off the ice continues for season two and beyond, but wonders if attendance will continue to grow as part of Ottawa's sports landscape.

"If you look around the landscape of sports teams in Ottawa, there is not a team whose problem is we don't have enough seats – that we're selling too many tickets and we don't have enough places to put people," Sutcliffe said.

"That's not the typical experience of a professional or semi-professional sports team in Ottawa. If it ends up that PWHL Ottawa has the problem, that's a nice problem to have. I think we can squeeze in a few more seats, but it's not going to be an 8,500 seat arena."

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Austin Lee

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