A return from the burbs?
All it took was one meeting between the owner of the Kanata-based Ottawa Senators and the Ottawa mayor for an era of good feeling to start. It appears Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and Mayor Jim Watson have agreed to agree that perhaps the city and the owner should take a look at some municipal property in Ottawa that could be developed and include an arena for the National Hockey League team. Both sides will take a look at what can be done with the plot of land and discuss their conclusions at a November meeting. It has been an interesting road that Melnyk and Watson have taken to get to the point where both sides are willing discuss building an arena in town.
It was safe to say that Mayor Watson’s January, 2018 statement that “We should not be using property tax dollars to subsidize an NHL team. That’s not the role of a municipal government, in my opinion,” did not go down well with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Melnyk. After all team owners and their lobbyist commissioners expect political leaders to roll over and give them what they feel is necessary public funding to make their sports business successful whether comes from not paying taxes to an outright handout. Watson also added, at least in Ottawa, “It’s very clear that there is precious little support for direct subsidies to professional sports teams.” In January, Melnyk wasn’t even sure about his involvement with the team so the situation has changed. Watson remained open to do a deal with Melnyk. The Senators arena is envisioned as a centerpiece for an arena village that would include a rink along with housing, shopping and other building. Melnyk claimed he can finance the arena. But Melnyk is not making a commitment at this time. Melnyk is on the clock.