There has been much discussion recently about what should be built on the vacant land at Lebreton Flats, with a new home for the Senators (the hockey team, not the Red Chamber) getting a lot of people excited. While I can understand the desire by some people to have a more centrally-located arena built there, I don’t think that would be the best use of the land.
A hockey arena like the Palladium Corel Centre ScotiaBank Place Canadian Tire Centre will generally go unused during the day during the week since most hockey games take place in the evening.
Hockey arenas generally require large amounts of parking, even taking public transit into consideration. That means that a significant portion of Lebreton Flats would end up being paved. And let’s face it, parking lots are generally not the most attractive things created by civil engineers.
So, a hockey stadium in Lebreton Flats would mean a huge expanse of pavement that would probably be empty during the daytime most days of the week. Juxtaposed against other things in the area such as the Canadian War Museum, the reasonably attractive condo development in the southeast quadrant and the future mixed-use development by Windmill on the islands and you end up with something that will stick out like a sore thumb.
Building something like a new Canada Museum of Science and Technology drawing on places like the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Science North in Sudbury, along with the nearby Canadian War Museum for inspiration would result in a much more integrated, visually attractive space. While there would still be some parking necessary, it could probably be built underground like the parking at the Canadian Museum of History, leaving the surface open for landscaping and some of the larger outdoor exhibits the CMST has, such as the steam train, rocket and lighthouse.
Bruce Firestone said in an interview on CBC a few days ago that he considered Lebreton Flats when he built the Palladium years ago and at the time it wasn’t the right place for it then and it’s not the right place for it now.
Even with the opening of the Confederation Line in 2018, a hockey arena in Lebreton Flats would almost certainly have a significant impact on the traffic in the area. Since most people probably try to arrive at hockey games 60 to 90 minutes before they start, this means that the evening rush hour could effectively be extended longer than it is now, plus people living in the area will have to deal with a wave of traffic and all that entails when the game gets out later that evening.
As well, moving the Senators out of the stadium in Kanata would have a significant impact on Kanata and Stittsville, and not in a good way. There are numerous businesses near Canadian Tire Place that depend on the hockey games for a good chunk of their revenues. If the major tenant at the arena (i.e. The Senators) moved out, they would be seriously impacted.
So, let’s focus on finding a better use for the land, whether a new home for the CMST, an aquarium (something a friend suggested), or something else that would be a better fit with the surroundings, less taxing on the roads and won’t have such a negative impact on another part of the city. Putting a hockey arena there would be a waste of a large parcel of land with potential for something better.