The Senators brings crowds to Kanata. Businesses are wondering what will happen if they leave

·3 min read
Kanata residents and business owners are wondering what will become of the Canadian Tire Centre if the Ottawa Senators move downtown. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Kanata residents and business owners are wondering what will become of the Canadian Tire Centre if the Ottawa Senators move downtown. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Canadian Tire Centre (CTC) and its pinkish-brick bulk have been a Kanata fixture for decades, drawing crowds of hockey fans, concert-goers and event attendees. But what happens if it's no longer an NHL arena?

Nearby residents and businesses are grappling with that question after learning a group led by the Ottawa Senators had signed a memorandum of understanding that would see the team play roughly 24 kilometres away at LeBreton Flats.

It's far from a done deal, but Javed Somra is already calculating what that loss might mean.

The arena was a factor he considered when he bought the Boston Pizza at Kanata Entertainment Centrum, just a short drive away.

"It will definitely affect us because it's a revenue generator," the restaurant owner explained.

"Whenever anything happens at the Canadian Tire Centre, we benefit from it."

Those extra customers meant bringing in extra wait and kitchen staff, something Somra said he's not sure the steady walk-in business that makes up the bulk of the rest of their sales would support.

"Once they're gone, obviously that's going to be a loss."

Walmart would move in there tomorrow I think. — Bruce Firestone

The Kanata Central BIA shared similar concerns, describing the CTC as a draw that generates "significant" revenue.

"This is detrimental to our businesses," wrote executive director Lauri Moussa in an email to CBC.

"They have no answers to what will happen to the building as it is too early at this stage, but we have the LRT extension coming with a stop at the CTC. It will be a very interesting to see the next steps in this project."

Founder says Walmart would want building

Not everyone is sounding the alarm.

Bruce Firestone, who founded the Senators, said he's not worried about what will happen the the arena.

Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

He pointed to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, which today houses an athletic centre and grocery store, as an example of what the CTC could be.

"Oh my gosh ...  650,000 square feet, Walmart would move in there tomorrow I think and take the whole thing and 7,000-vehicle parking lot," said Firestone.

"I know a number of hotel owners in the area and none of them are freaking out," he added.

"Kanata, I think, will do just fine."

It's not the first time the suburb has been left wondering whether it will be saying farewell to the Senators.

A similar deal that would have brought the team downtown fell apart in 2018, ending with those involved suing each other for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Fans 'disappointed' by potential move

News that the Sens are again looking at a location closer to the city core was met with mixed feelings from fans on Friday.

Brian Adams said he was "disappointed" but only because he lives in the area.

I think they should stay where it is. It's out in the open and people can reach it. — Marylou Vinkle

"It's going to mean a longer commute for us to travel to a game," he said, adding if the LRT makes it out to Kanata it won't be too bad.

Adams did acknowledge arenas in most cities seem to be downtown.

"To have it way out here in the suburbs is a bit of an outlier."

Others weren't ready to even consider seeing the Senators move.

"What do they think they're going to gain by going down there? Parking? Where's that?" asked Marylou Vinkle, who lives near the arena.

"I think they should stay where it is. It's out in the open and people can reach it."

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