I brainstorm 5 neat features that other arenas have successfully incorporated into their product that could be used in the new LeBreton arena.
Stadium Wide WiFi
More and more professional sports arenas are starting to implement stadium wide WiFi for fans to enjoy while at games. While this is certainly beneficial for fans who want to roam their phones during intermissions or while walking the concourse, it can be beneficial to the team as well. The Senators can incentivize fan involvement as a part of the in-game experience by offering interactive applications that fans can download to their phones. Some arenas allow fans to remotely order food to their seat during games, or participate in trivia questions or surveys that can be displayed on the jumbotron during game breaks. This is something that is relatively low-cost (albeit not cheap) that the organization may even do at the current Canadian Tire Centre venue, well before the move to LeBreton Flats.
Showcase the Peace Tower and Parliament Hill
So much of the architecture and design of downtown Ottawa is centred around Parliament Hill and the prominent Peace Tower that can be seen from vantage points around the city. Many of the developments at LeBreton Flats, in fact, are being organized so as to not obstruct the view of the Peace Tower, something that architects have been doing successfully for years in the downtown core.
The organization could go one of two ways in this regard. They could opt for the tackier option of including a miniaturized Peace Tower prominently displayed in a corner of the arena, which would be used during goal celebrations and pre-game warmups. The closest comparison in the league right now might be the Minnesota Wild and the Excel Energy Center, that currently features a lighthouse that goes off during goal celebrations (pictured below).
The second option would be to err on the classier side, maybe opting to integrate a glass window-wall facing Parliament Hill and the downtown skyline. While a solid glass window-wall, like the one inside the Indianapolis Colts’ NFL stadium, would admittedly be difficult to incorporate inside the main arena bowl, due to 360 degree seating, they could maybe incorporate a glass corner window that displays the Peace Tower inside the bowl, which would bleed into a full glass exterior window visible from the concourse. This would provide breathtaking views of downtown Ottawa and its unique skyline, including Parliament Hill.
Hall of Honour
This is a fairly broad category, I realize, but I think it’s inevitable that the new arena features a Hall of Honour in some capacity. Other teams have been known to integrate artifacts from past seasons, league memorabilia, and player stories from years gone by. There are endless possibilities in terms of creating a unique experience to Ottawa. One idea that caught my eye in recent years was the Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Honour. If you’re interested, you can watch this brief video below. I really like the idea of the layout, where each player pillar is situated based on where he played with the team (for hockey, it would translate to F/D/G).
Create an Intimate Experience
The fan experience at Ottawa Senators’ games in recent years has been particularly lacking. Not since the golden days of the team back in 2007/2008 have our fans been a force in the stands. There are a lot of factors involved in this obviously, such as recent performance, the relatively small fanbase in Ottawa, and the location of the arena. The Canadian Tire Centre has always been too big for the small to medium size of the Senators’ fanbase. Eugene Melnyk has already taken steps to address this issue recently, downsizing the seating capacity to make way for more premium areas. Melnyk has also stated that there will less seats in the LeBreton arena.
Creating an intimate environment is crucial in a smaller arena like Ottawa. For any soccer fans out there, Tottenham Hotspur execute this to near perfection in their current White Hart Lane digs (which unfortunately is being replaced at the end of this season). It’s one of the smaller arenas in terms of capacity among the top clubs in the Premier League, yet it’s a deafening atmosphere and intimidating for the opposition to play there. The Senators need to do something similar, relying on close-proximity seating and a bowl that best amplifies sound to create a truly immersive fan experience. This may also help to replace some elements of the failing RSU fan section, which most fans currently see as more of a hindrance at games than a benefit. The concept was great, but I think that with a more intimate setting, that fan section can extend to all 18,000+ in attendance, rather than relying on one section to bring the energy.
Green Initiatives and Partnerships with Local Businesses
It’s already in the plans to make the new arena as eco-friendly as possible. The initial designs incorporate a good amount of green-space, as well as interactive nature tours around the site. Of course, the new arena will be built with all of this in mind, likely incorporating state-of-the-art lighting and displays. What would be neat to see are more partnerships with local businesses in the downtown core, particularly those who would be able to create one-of-a-kind memorabilia and team merchandise. One example I stumbled across recently was Looptworks partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. You can check out their work here. The company turns obsolete jerseys and merchandise into brand new, eco-friendly products that are pretty freaking incredible. I’m not aware of any business in Ottawa that currently offers a similar service, but I’m sure there must be one out there in Canada at least that does something similar.
Hmmm, which jerseys do the Senators currently have that are soon to be obsolete and in need of recycling?
Bonus: Don’t Name It Little Caesar’s Arena
This also rules out the Pizza Pizza Dome.