‘Rock solid’ arena deal key to keeping Sens in Ottawa, sports observer says


Amid experiences that the homeowners of the Ottawa Senators are contemplating a sale, one sports observer says a “rock strong” plan to construct a brand new arena at LeBreton Flats is required to guarantee the Sens keep put in Ottawa. 

“That’s the hazard at this level. The LeBreton deal seems good, nevertheless it’s not utterly executed but,” mentioned Moshe Lander, an economics professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

Speculation about the longer term of the Senators started after the general public discovered in late March proprietor Eugene Melnyk died and his two daughters, Anna and Olivia, inherited the franchise.

Three months later, the National Capital Commission (NCC) introduced it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a bunch led by the Senators to develop an NHL hockey arena and occasions venue surrounded by mixed-use improvement on Albert Street in LeBreton Flats.

The group’s idea was nonetheless in the very early levels, the NCC burdened, with a objective of fall 2023 set for signing a long-term lease settlement. 

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the fee mentioned its board expects to get an replace on the challenge in January.

No urge for food for setbacks

Lander mentioned the MOU guarantees stability, as a possible proprietor could be extra probably to keep in Ottawa if there was a plan to transfer downtown somewhat than purchase a staff in the suburbs “with no actual course.”

He’s hopeful native Ottawa teams will specific curiosity in the staff, however issues want to progress easily properly past an MOU to appeal to severe suitors, he added. 

“Anybody who’s seeing this as an funding isn’t going to have the option to strain the NCC … however they’re actually going to say ‘We’re not placing up $700 million to discover out that this factor is gonna fall by means of on some technicality or to discover out that there is some type of environmental influence evaluation that says that the LeBreton Flats is harmful,'” Lander mentioned.

stands contained in the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Sept. 7, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ottawans know arena offers can crumble, as they discovered with the failed play for a LeBreton Flats arena again in 2018.

Calgary is a latest instance of a metropolis the place a brand new arena challenge seemed prepared to go solely to flip right into a extra protracted affair, Lander mentioned.

“They’re again to sq. one,” he mentioned. 

“So it might probably drag and, relying on what possession group comes ahead, that itself may begin posing some potential points, particularly if the possession group isn’t from Ottawa.”

An arena with the Ottawa Senators name and logo next to a waterway and surrounded by highrises.
Plans for the arena by the group led by the Ottawa Senators are nonetheless being developed. This rendering supplied by Capital Sports Development Inc. is topic to change. (Capital Sports Development Inc.)

Arena as public funding bargaining chip

Arena initiatives usually see the proponents asking the town to chip in, and with LeBreton Flats falling on Crown land, the federal authorities, alongside the City of Ottawa, could also be requested to assist pay for a brand new Senators dwelling — which can put additional strain on Ottawa to preserve its grip on the staff, Lander mentioned. 

“Usually what the possession teams will do is successfully blackmail, leverage, scare-tactic their manner into getting that cash by saying, ‘If you do not give it, I guess you Houston would,'” he mentioned.

“Quebec City has been sitting with an empty arena prepared made for an NHL staff for a few decade they usually’d love nothing greater than to bounce in on the final minute and seize the Sens.”

All in a Day9:01Now may be the appropriate moment for the Sens to search for a brand new proprietor

Sports economist Moshe Lander says the timing would make sense

Ottawa’s mayor-elect, Mark Sutcliffe, mentioned in an emailed assertion Wednesday that he doesn’t help taxpayer cash going towards the development of a brand new arena “no matter its location.”

Sutcliffe added that, like many Ottawa residents and Senators followers, he expects the NHL “to guarantee any potential new proprietor retains our Senators in Ottawa.”

The staff’s founder agreed.

“So so long as Gary Bettman is the [NHL] commissioner, in my opinion, the Senators aren’t going wherever,” Bruce Firestone mentioned in an interview. 

“When the Senators went bankrupt, Gary went to bat for Ottawa; he needed to preserve a National Hockey League staff in Canada’s capital metropolis. He’s gone to bat for the Arizona Coyotes. He doesn’t consider, and I agree with him, that franchises in any main league sports ought to be on curler skates. They ought to keep the place they’re.”

Despite threats, the one NHL staff to transfer because the 2004-05 lockout is the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg after possession could not discover anybody keen to purchase the staff and preserve it in Georgia.

Anna, left, and Olivia Melnyk, daughters of late Ottawa Senators proprietor Eugene Melnyk, stand at centre ice for the ceremonial puck drop earlier than an NHL hockey sport , a month after their father’s loss of life. (The Canadian Press)

In his assertion, Sutcliffe mentioned he helps relocating the Senators arena to LeBreton Flats from its present dwelling on the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata “supplied there’s a sturdy plan to help native Kanata companies that could be impacted by the transfer.”

Firestone pointed to the repurposing of Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, the previous dwelling of the Toronto Maple Leafs, for instance of what could be executed to assist. 

“It’s bought a Loblaws superstore in there [now]. There’s the Mattamy Athletic Centre [for Toronto Metropolitan University]. There was an excellent reuse of the arena,” he mentioned. 

Who can afford the staff? 

Sportico, a U.S. information outlet, reported on Tuesday that the Sens have employed Galatioto Sports Partners, a agency that acts as an arranger in gross sales {of professional} sports groups.

Late final 12 months, Forbes Magazine estimated the staff to be value $525 million, up 22 per cent from a 12 months earlier than. 

When the price of a brand new arena is added, an incoming proprietor is definitely a complete funding north of $1 billion, Firestone mentioned.

That’s why there’ll probably to be “an entire bunch of individuals [who] are going to have their palms everywhere in the deal, to mainly lend the possession group the cash to finance the acquisition of the staff,” Lander mentioned. 

The pool of potential homeowners is “a really elite membership,” he added.

Flags fly at half-mast on the Canadian Tire Centre, the house of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators on March 29, 2022, the day after information broke of Melnyk’s loss of life. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Firestone, who received the Senators franchise in 1990, mentioned the times of an entrepreneur like him being concerned in a serious sports league are most likely over.

“You want anyone who has sources and has different companies that may help the staff,” he mentioned. 

Firestone mentioned he believes there are some folks in the Ottawa-Gatineau space who would high quality as patrons. 

“But it is not as an extended listing as you’ll discover in Toronto,” he conceded. 


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