We all know that the Senators are pursuing an outdoor game for 2017, to coincide with both the 25th Anniversary of the team and the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. That isn't news. What was news was one of the venues being considered - everyone just kind of assumed that TD Place would be the only logical location, but the possibility of Parliament Hill was raised yesterday.
When the idea was first mentioned by Mayor Watson, the initial reaction was "yeah, right". The list of logistical issues is huge. First, would the Government and Public Works ever agree to it? According to Jim Watson, the league has been in contact with them with the idea, and they were at least open enough to the idea to not dismiss it right away.
Would it even be possible to put up an ice surface and seating from scratch for a temporary event? Well, they already do the ice surface for the other outdoor games and they've put up 80,000 temporary seats for a U2 concert in Montreal so the engineering ability is there.
You're not going to fit 80,000 seats on Parliament Hill, of course. But 80,000 isn't really the comparable - TD Place at 24,000 permanent seats (likely 30k+ with temporary seating) is.
Just what can you fit on the front lawn of Parliament?
Fitting the ice surface is no problem. The lawn is roughly 550 feet by 380 feet, with two rounded corners and the Centennial Flame to work around. You could easily fit a 200 foot by 85 foot playing surface. That leaves the question of seating and other facilities.
Easiest way to compare is to look at the size of NHL arenas compared to the space available on Parliament Hill. It's not going to be perfect - you aren't really going to be able to overlap levels with temporary stands - but it's a solid starting point.
Canadian Tire Centre superimposed over Parliament Hill - images via Google Maps
Wow - Canadian Tire Centre almost fits in the available space, spilling out on to the roads around the lawn somewhat but not quite out on to Wellington St. While the round structure of CTC makes for two nice big concourse areas along the sides, it's not the best comparison for a rectangular chunk of land. How about some rectangular NHL arenas? Both Montreal and Toronto have rectangular(ish) rinks, let's see how they compare.
Air Canada Centre superimposed on Parliament Hill - images via Google Maps
Bell Centre superimposed on Parliament Hill - images via Google Maps
Those actually fit pretty well. The Air Canada Centre fits entirely, and the Bell Centre only goes out into the road around the lawn a little bit at the northeast and northwest corners. The Centennial Flame would be in the middle of the concourse, though. It's worth noting that the Bell Centre has the highest seating capacity of any NHL arena at over 21,000 - though that is short of the 30,000 plus that is estimated for TD Place.
TD Place superimposed on Parliament Hill - images via Google Maps
TD Place, as is, is a bit big. Minus the part of the north side that is actually the arena, it would stretch right from the front doors of Parliament all the way across Wellington. Stop it where the stands end on the south side and you might just keep it inside the fence. Either way, still obviously way too big.
But... a CFL football field is 195 feet wide, compared to 85 for a NHL ice surface. If you take away half the width between the stands - which frankly, would make for a better fan experience compared to being an extra 50+ feet from the action - and only show where the actual south side stands end, what would it look like?
TD Place with half-width field superimposed on Parliament Hill - images via Google Maps
You'd be covering most of the roads between the lawn and the Parliament Hill buildings themselves, but you're not right up against them anymore and you're within the fence. It would cut down on the additional end-zone seating too, but again - you don't need a set of binoculars to watch the game from the front row which would provide a better viewing experience for the fans.
So yes - it is clearly technically possible to fit enough seating and a hockey rink on to Parliament Hill to be close enough to the seating capacity of TD Place for the trade-off of the spectacular backdrop to be worth considering.
That hardly makes it a sure thing, of course - seating is far from the only facilities they would need to put in place (concessions, bathrooms, etc) and the feds saying it is possible at this early discussion phase is far from a final green light. Lots of things would still need to be figured out - but if there is enough space isn't one of them.