Senators unveil $15-million renovation to Canadian Tire Centre

The Ottawa Senators’ biggest upgrades this season might not even be happening on the ice, as reporters discovered during a tour of the revamped Canadian Tire Centre early this week.

 

The Senators unveiled the largest renovation project in the arena’s 20-year history on Tuesday, a $15-million overhaul that includes enhanced security features, a bevy of new food offerings and the members'-only Club Bell.

 

Donning a hard hat and work boots to lead journalists around the new-look CTC, team president Cyril Leeder said professional sports franchises like the Senators can no longer afford to simply sit back and expect fans to just show up.

“We’re not just competing with sports fans,” he said. “You’re really competing with experiences and people spending their discretionary income on a night out or an experience. So you have to deliver the full package.”

A key part of that package is Club Bell, a 20,000-square-foot premium seating area at the west end of the arena’s 100 level that features three new seating options and a kitchen for the exclusive use of the club’s 472 members.

“We really tried to do something spectacular here with Club Bell,” Mr. Leeder as he stood just outside one of the 14 sold-out Victory Suites, a smaller version of the traditional luxury box that seats six to 10 customers.

The club president said the Senators felt smaller suites were the way to go in a town that lacks the kind of well-heeled business clients who drive private-box sales in cities such as Toronto and New York.

“Our market here doesn’t have many big corporations that can support that, so we’ve really focused on the small and medium-sized business and products that are one, two and four seats,” he said.

The move appears to have paid off. The 14 new suites, which range in price from $80,000 to $125,000 per year and require a five- or seven-year commitment, went on the market last November and sold out in three weeks.

The loges – four seats grouped around a fixed tabletop – were snapped up so quickly 12 more were added to the additional allotment of 27, and only a couple are still available. The 220 individual luxe seats – plusher, wider versions of regular club seats – are about half sold, and Mr. Leeder said he expects the rest to be gone by the time the Senators play their home opener against the Canadiens on Oct. 11.

The construction required the removal of 18 suites, eight rows of seats and the concourse behind them, reducing the CTC’s overall seating capacity to 18,694 from 19,153. But the team expects to see an uptick in overall ticket revenues of eight to 10 per cent this season thanks to Club Bell.

“It’s a big investment, so you need that type of improvement (in revenue) just to pay for it, but in the long run it’s good for the hockey club as well,” Mr. Leeder said.

Today’s fans expect a different game-day experience than those who first flocked to the arena in the mid ’90s, he added. He said a survey a couple of years ago showed 85 per cent of sports fans at live events preferred to get up and walk around during games, a number that surprised him.

“If you did that survey 20 years ago, it would’ve been 85 per cent prefer to get there, sit in their seat and not be bothered and watch the game,” Mr. Leeder said. “It’s a real change in how people are viewing their sports. It’s one of the benefits of the space is you can get up and move around. It’s not only an opportunity to watch a hockey game, it’s an opportunity to network with 471 other like-minded businesspeople in the community.”