Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lighthouses Across America

Thanks to reader Bryan from Ottawa for sending me the links.

Some people are still clinging for dear life to the belief that the Coliseum renovation is far more important than the rest of the Lighthouse and should be done first. However, recent events are proving that the Coliseum is an anachronism and part of a dying breed.

The Ottawa Senators were the last team in the National Hockey League to build an arena surrounded by a sea of parking spaces outside of a downtown area. Their arena in suburban Kanata has not deterred fans from making the trek to the area, and it has helped solidify the franchise in Canada's capital. Now, in an attempt to revitalize the arena grounds and create a 24/7 entertainment district, the Senators' ownership has unveiled plans for, you guessed it, a mini-Lighthouse! Here are some highlights from the project, as per a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen:
  • $500 million in total investment
  • A new multipurpose stadium to house a Major League Soccer franchise
  • 900,000 - 1.5 million square feet of office space
  • 300,000 - 500,000 square feet of retail/entertainment space
  • Up to 450 residential units
The plan, which is to be built in stages, would help tie together that part of Kanata to create a cohesive community with entertainment options ranging far beyond an event at Scotiabank Place.

Opponents of the Lighthouse hold the Philadelphia Flyers up as an example of a franchise that can succeed in an arena that is not surrounded by any development. The comparisons to Nassau Coliseum are not very fitting, since the Wachovia Center (soon to be renamed AGAIN) is surrounded by the other professional sports facilities and has mass-transit access (in addition, Flyers owner Ed Snider has an ownership stake in the Spectator Management Group (SMG), which runs many arenas around the country, including Nassau Coliseum). However, I will play along and agree that the Flyers are a franchise that has succeeded without a Lighthouse-like development.

Flyers ownership sees bigger and better things for that current asphalt jungle. Late last year, Comcast/Spectator unveiled plans for Philly Live!, a vibrant district with shopping, dining, entertainment, and possibly a 300-room hotel on the property currently occupied by the old Spectrum and the Wachovia Center parking lot. This development aims to revitalize the area of South Philadelphia in which the sports stadiums are located, and it hopes to create a vibrant, year-round destination that is not wholly dependent on sports.

Bottom Line: The suburban arena surrounded by a parking lot is a dying concept that does not fulfill its full economic potential. The Lighthouse is one of many developments aiming to breathe life into these barren lots. Anybody arguing that the Coliseum renovation will be a sufficient development should have to explain why other ownership groups are moving away from that concept if it is such an economically viable solution.

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. As always, don't forget to sign the petition and pass it on. I welcome your feedback at

Reminder: White-out for the Lighthouse this Saturday, 2/21, at Nassau Coliseum. Wear a white shirt in support of the Lighthouse.


  1. I've been up to Ottawa about 5 years ago and that building was in the middle of nowhere. Great building. If they build it up it will be similar to the lighthouse project and outside a downtown area.

  2. Great post, Nick! It should be mentioned that the original owner of the Senators (who also built the arena) very specifically picked its location (over a proposed site near downtown Ottawa) because of the potential to develop the surrounding land (which he also owned). He envisioned a community surrounding the arena, with retail, business and residential units.

    That the current Senators ownership (who took on the arena, plus the surrounding real estate) want to move ahead with this development should be no surprise. Modern arenas are very expensive to operate and are not very profitable. That's the reality of sports economics today.