Neil Malhotra, vice-president of Claridge Homes, wants to bring the NASL to Ottawa. He wants the Ottawa team to play at the former Lynx stadium, located on Coventry Road. According to the Ottawa Sun, Malhotra talked with the new North American Soccer League and that group is interested in Malhotra’s initiative. He was also recently interviewed by the It’s Called Football panel and seemed genuinely interested in bringing the NASL to Ottawa.
The proposed stadium is about a five to ten minute drive from downtown Ottawa. It’s real grass. Currently, the stadium can seat 10,000 fans. There would be no CFL lines on the field, ever. All of this is perfect for an NASL team which could expect to draw about 7,000 per game. The glaring flaw is that we are talking about a stadium configured for baseball.
As can be seen by viewing the image to the right, spectators would be centred around the focal point of the South-West corner. This will be fantastic when the Ottawa team is attacking from the East and gets a corner kick on the left side. But what about the rest of the game? Ideally there would be seats along both the South and North touchlines and behind the east goal line. The best solution would be to tear down the baseball seating and erect seating suitable for a 10,000 seat soccer specific stadium. With a SSS, a properly managed NASL team would have a great shot at being as successful as Montreal and Vancouver are in the USL1. Re-configuring the whole stadium would cost money; and lots of it. It is uncertain if there would be room, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be any part of Malholtra’s vision.
The big concern is that the stadium plan as is, has a “bush league” appearance. Ottawa is the fourth biggest City in Canada. The Ottawa soccer community, despite not having a professional soccer team, is quite sophisticated. The U20 World Cup games were a huge success at the box office. There are more registered soccer players in Ottawa than in Toronto, and not per capita either, which is quite surprising given the differences in populations. The NASL, if done properly, will be a good fit for Ottawa. I can imagine Ottawa selling out NASL games in a soccer specific 10,000 seat stadium. Ottawa fans can be fickle however, and can only tolerate so much “B” class. A tier 2 league is okay if everything is done properly. When you combine a second tier league with a baseball stadium, in a city that has two soccer specific stadiums with tier 1 leagues within driving distances of 2 and 4.5 hours (assuming Montreal joins the MLS), this might be too second rate for Ottawa soccer fans to ever fully embrace over the long run.