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Ottawa Citizen, September 15, 2015
SENATORS REVEAL $15M UPGRADE TO CANADIAN TIRE CENTRE
On the second week of school, reporters took a field trip to the Canadian Tire Centre, strapping on hard hats and safety boots for an inside look at a major upgrade to the home of the Ottawa Senators.
Despite the distraction of new and improved food outlets along the tour, media battled to focus on the sujet du jour: Club Bell, the arena’s fancy new digs in the northwest side of the building.
So, how did your summer renovation go?
The Senators pumped more than $15 million into their off-season upgrade. (For comparison purposes, the organization typically spends $3 million to $5 million in annual improvements). From the outset, the ambition was lofty: “We wanted the best location to watch a game in the entire league,” said Senators president Cyril Leeder, from underneath his red Senators hard hat.
Construction is ongoing. Not until Oct. 11, for the regular season home opener against the Canadiens, will club members be able to look up close and personal at superstar defenceman Erik Karlsson and the rest of the Senators. But the vantage point from this 100-level club is fabulous – that was apparent even looking at a blank sheet of ice Tuesday afternoon.
“We tried to so something spectacular with Club Bell,” Leeder said. “We weren’t just trying to have a small upgrade, if you’re going to make changes of this magnitude, you really want to deliver something special for our fans.”
The project began with sledge hammers and wrecking balls. The Senators removed 18 suites, and eight rows of seats in front of them. Also, the concourse behind them, and right out to the street (to valet parking).
In all, capacity in this members-only club is 472. The so-called ‘Victory’ suites are already sold out. The loges, with their affixed table tops (great for entertaining writers on deadline!) sold quickly, and now more have been added. The sale of individual seats ensue.
This new, not-for-the-average-Joe fan experience is all-inclusive — parking, seats, food, the works. Seats start at $10,000 and loges and suites go up from there.
You guessed it. There is a payback for the hockey club.
“We expect an uptick, from our ticket (revenues), of about eight to 10 per cent from the Club (Bell) alone,” Leeder says. “It’s substantial. It’s a big investment so you need that type of improvement just to pay for it, but in the long run it’s good for the hockey club as well.”
By losing individual seats to help make the change to fewer, but more luxurious seats, the overall capacity of CTC drops to 18,694 from 19,153.
And so the Senators trumpet the biggest investment the Senators have made in their building since it opened in 1996.