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Ottawa Senators score win with NCC with arena for LeBreton Flats

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The path to a downtown arena has been cleared for the Ottawa Senators.

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The National Capital Commission’s Board of Directors was informed by staff Thursday morning that the Senators had been awarded preferred bidder status for a major events center at LeBreton Flats and had already signed a principle.

The partnership includes Sterling Project Development, Popolous, Tipping Point Sports and Live Nation.

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As this newspaper was first to report, it is believed that one of Eugene Melnyk’s last acts before his death on March 28 was to sign an offer on the February 28 deadline to express his interest in a new skating rink at LeBreton Flats.

It didn’t work out the last time he partnered with Trinity’s John Ruddy in 2015, but in this bid the Senators have strong supporters for the arena.

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Naturally, this is only the first step in what is going to be a long process to secure a lease with the NCC by January 23. Additionally, the organization will also have to deal with political and financial obstacles that need to be cleared.

While the NCC said in April it had “multiple” expressions of interest for a major on-field event center located on the outskirts of downtown Ottawa, an offer from the Senators is the only one that made sense, with the NHL team to be the anchor tenant.

We think Melnyk and his new group of funders have dipped their toes in the water to see what the NCC’s thought process is on this. If they hadn’t, the door would have been slammed. Melnyk told Postmedia in December that he was “still interested” in an opportunity at LeBreton.

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During public consultations conducted by the NCC in 2019, it was made clear that people wanted a downtown arena on LeBreton Flats.

Not only does this move increase the value of the franchise should Melnyk’s daughters, Anna and Olivia, the team’s new owners, decide to sell, but it also helps secure the future of the franchise in this town.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson praised the senators for “going through” the process and “not abandoning this proposal.”

Watson said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman repeatedly told him the Senators needed to be downtown because “there are no crowds in Kanata.”

“It’s a great day for the City of Ottawa and the people of Ottawa,” said Watson. “I think we have a winner here.”

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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