‘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 stable” 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 appears to be like good, nevertheless it’s not utterly completed but,” stated Moshe Lander, an economics professor at Concordia University in Montreal.

Speculation about the long run of the Senators started the moment the general public realized proprietor Eugene Melnyk died in March on the age of 62 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 Capital Sports Development Inc., a bunch led by the Senators, to develop an NHL hockey arena and occasions venue surrounded by mixed-use growth on Albert Street between Preston Street and City Centre Avenue. 

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

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

No urge for food for setbacks

Lander stated the MOU guarantees “stability” as a possible proprietor could be extra possible to keep in Ottawa if there was a plan to transfer downtown, slightly than purchase a workforce in the suburbs “with no actual path.” 

He’s hopeful native Ottawa teams will categorical curiosity in the workforce.

But issues want to progress properly past an MOU, and proceed easily, to entice critical suitors, he added. 

“Anybody who’s seeing this as an funding will not be going to have the ability to stress 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 kind of environmental influence evaluation that says that the Lebreton Flats is harmful,'” Lander stated.

Ottawa Senators’s former proprietor Eugene Melnyk stands contained in the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Sept. 7, 2017. Melnyk died on March 28, 2022 on the age of 62 after an sickness. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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

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

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

“So it may possibly drag and, relying on what possession group comes ahead, that itself might begin posing some potential points, particularly if the possession group will not be 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 tasks typically 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 residence — which can put additional stress on Ottawa to keep its grip on the workforce, Lander stated. 

“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 stated.

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

LISTEN | Sports economist Moshe Lander says the timing of possession change would make sense

All in a Day9:01Now could be the proper 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, stated in an emailed assertion Wednesday that he doesn’t assist 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 workforce’s founder, Bruce Firestone, agreed.

“So so long as Gary Bettman is the [NHL] commissioner, in my opinion, the Senators usually are not going anyplace,” Firestone stated in an interview. 

“When the senators went bankrupt, Gary went to bat for Ottawa; he needed to maintain a National Hockey League workforce 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.”

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 recreation , a month after their father’s demise. (The Canadian Press)

In his assertion, Sutcliffe stated he helps relocating the Senators arena to Lebreton Flats from its present residence on the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, “supplied there’s a robust plan to assist native Kanata companies which may be impacted by the transfer.”

Firestone pointed to the repurposing of Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, the previous residence of the Toronto Maple Leafs, for instance of what might be completed to assist. 

“It’s obtained a Loblaws superstore in there [now]. There’s the Mattamy Athletic Centre. There was an excellent reuse of the arena,” he stated. 

Who can afford the workforce? 

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

Late final 12 months, Forbes Magazine estimated the workforce to be price $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 well a complete funding north of $1 billion, Firestone stated.

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

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 Melnyk died. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Firestone, who received the Senators franchise in 1990, stated 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 assist the workforce,” he stated. 

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

“But it is not as a protracted record as you’ll discover in Toronto,” he conceded. 


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