Ottawa mayor 'wouldn't be supportive' of using public funds to build arena
When the Ottawa Senators were put up for sale in November, the NHL made it clear the new ownership group would not be allowed to move the franchise out of the city.
Another component of the sale, as it reaches the final stages, is whether the incoming group will choose to build a new arena.
Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who emphasizes the city is committed to keeping the Senators, says that a new arena would ideally be built downtown.
“It all depends on where it would be built, and what the deal would be and what would be around it, but in principle, I think we’ve seen throughout North America that downtown arenas are better than suburban arenas,” Sutcliffe told TSN 1200 on Thursday.
“But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that, whoever the new owners are, might decide they want to stay in Kanata and refurbish that arena and stay where they are. That’s obviously a possibility. I wouldn’t rule out a deal being struck for LeBreton Flats, and I wouldn’t rule out looking at another location as well. I think all options are on the table and it’s really about what’s best for the community and what’s best for the team.”
As Sutcliffe prepares to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly in Ottawa next Monday, the mayor says he’s happy with how the NHL has been handling the sale of the Senators.
“They’ve made it very, very clear from the outset the Senators are not going anywhere,” Sutcliffe said. “They are committed to Ottawa. They believe in Ottawa. That’s really important for the community here.
“Ottawa is a great market and I know the Senators can be successful here permanently. I’m sure we’ll take about what the new ownership will mean, what some of the opportunities are with regard to LeBreton Flats and a new arena.”
While there is no guarantee a new arena will be built or what the timeline for starting construction might be, Sutcliffe asserts he is not a fan of using public money for such projects, but also won’t rule out the possibility.
“I wouldn’t be supportive of that in principle,” said Sutcliffe. “I’m not ruling anything out at this point because we don’t know what the scenario will be and what the opportunity might be.
“I suppose there are always options where, for example, if they are building a facility and it has more than one rink surface in it and the city could use one of those and it would replace an existing, aging facility somewhere and it’s infrastructure the community could use, I wouldn’t rule out a scenario where there are some city dollars going into it. But I want to be clear by saying I’m not ruling it out, doesn’t mean I’m in favour of it, doesn’t mean I support the idea of the city writing a big cheque.
“… I don’t think there’s a lot of public appetite for taxpayers’ dollars to go into an arena. So, I don’t see that happening. But again, I don’t want to rule anything out because there is no deal on the table. We don’t know who the new owners are. We don’t even know where they are going to build an arena, if they are going to build an arena.”
Sutcliffe acknowledges that the new owners would be in the driver’s seat for picking a site but says he has made it clear to the Senators that the site of their current home can’t just sit empty.
“The Canadian Tire Centre is an important economic driver for Kanata and for the west end of our city and I want to make sure that if the team does move [downtown], that we do something with that site that is going to continue to be an economic driver for that part of our community,” Sutcliffe said.
“… If there isn’t going to be a hockey team, there should be some other kind of big attraction that will be an economic driver for that area. I don’t want to abandon the people of Kanata who are used to having jobs and activities in that area and we don’t want the restaurants and the other amenities around there to suffer because of that. “