Nothing’s set in concrete yet, but the Ottawa Senators are on the lookout for more ways to deal with traffic snarls around Scotiabank Place.
Team president Cyril Leeder said the team is pursuing strategies to get vehicles out of the parking lot more efficiently, including pushing for a transit station at the rink and a ramp directly from the parking lot onto Highway 417.
He was responding to a poll on the Citizen’s SenatorsExtra.com web site that showed traffic concerns trail only ticket prices as barriers stopping fans from attending NHL contests in the city.
“I’ve talked to a number of people running for council and they think that (a transit station at Scotiabank Place) is something that is going to happen,” Leeder said. “It probably isn’t going to happen in two years, but there will definitely be a stop here at some point.”
The proposed station, which is part of the city’s long-term plans, would run either under or across Highway 417 and stop on Huntmar Road behind Scotiabank Place. A walkway from the stop would take fans right up to the building.
“We’d like it to be (built) tomorrow,” Leeder said when asked about a timeline.
“The other thing — we’ve just started the process — we’re asking now is to try and get an access ramp out of our parking lot directly on the highway that would first allow the busses to leave. An OC Transpo bus could take the ramp out of the parking lot right onto the 417 and open it to cars once all the busses have departed.”
Leeder made it clear the team hasn’t submitted a formal request yet, but is participating in informal talks with the provincial government on how to proceed.
He added strategies implemented last season, including educating ticket-buyers on ways in and out of the rink, have already improved post-game wait times by 22-50 per cent.
Leeder was initially dismissive about the ticket cost issue, but acknowledged more fan outreach might be in order.
“We don’t think price is a problem with getting people out to games early on in the season,” he explained. “We have some evidence to support that, and we have scads of tickets under $30 and they’re going unsold for these games.”
“One thing your poll helped us with is that awareness could be an issue,” he said. “Just being aware that these tickets are available.”
He also blamed the time of year and the opponents for some poor showings, attendance-wise.
The Senators drew just over 16,000 fans for a Thursday game against the Caolina Hurricanes last week and thousands of tickets remain unsold for Tuesday’s contest against Phoenix.
“Earlier in the year is always tougher than later in the year,” Leeder said. “Carolina’s got this crazy schedule where they don’t play at home for the first three weeks. That’s by design. They don’t want to play at home this time of year because you can’t sell tickets in October.”
At the end of the day, however, the No. 1 factor in getting customers into the building is showing them a Stanley Cup contender on the ice.
“We’re seeing great crowds in Washington and Pittsburgh and now they’ve got a Stanley cup contender and the elite, top players in the game,” the president said. “Mario Lemiuex and Wayne Gretzky never had problems selling tickets, no matter where they were playing.”
With the Senators sitting at 1-4-1 entering Friday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, there’s obviously plenty of work to do on that front.