Senators contemplating new downtown arena

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The Ottawa Senators don’t actually play in Ottawa. They play in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, where the Canadian Tire Centre is located.

But according to the Ottawa Citizen, the team would like that to change:

The Senators are contemplating a move downtown.

The group that operates the NHL team — Senators Sports & Entertainment — has confirmed to the Citizen that it is “actively considering the opportunity” to build a new hockey arena on the grounds of LeBreton Flats.

For decades, many have decried the current arena’s Kanata location as inconvenient, if not a downright barrier to attendance.

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The Canadian Tire Centre, owned by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk, is not an old arena; it only opened in 1996. But as the newspaper notes, its location was always suspect.

The original Senators owners wanted to make the current arena the centrepiece of a new commercial development, a controversial plan that never materialized, rebuffing the advice of then-councillors — including Jim Watson, Diane Holmes and Jacquelin Holzman, who was mayor at the time and is now an NCC director.

Building an arena not just in a more central location, but right on the new LRT line — LeBreton Flats will be served by the new Pimisi Station — could attract more people to the games.

In a related story, the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes, two teams that have struggled mightily with attendance, also play in suburban arenas. The former calls Sunrise, not Miami, home. The latter’s rink is in Glendale, not Phoenix.

Obviously, the Sens won’t find it easy to get a new arena built. Who will pay for it? Will it require public money? The same questions are being asked in Calgary.

The Sens are averaging 18,339 fans per game this season.