GARRIOCH: The dream of a downtown stadium could be one step closer to reality for the Ottawa Senators on Thursday

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The dream of a downtown stadium for the Ottawa Senators could become closer to reality on Thursday.

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The board of directors of the National Capital Commission will meet on Wednesday for a private session. Then, 30 minutes will be reserved for an update on the LeBreton Flats project that is on the public agenda on Thursday. At that time, a deal with a preferred bidder for a major events venue is expected to be announced.

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NCC staff stated at their last meeting on April 7 that they were close to starting negotiations with a preferred bidder and hoped to reach an agreement by this meeting. It appears that the NCC is ready to take the next step in what has been a long process.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Senators have been selected for preferred bidder status because a club offer would make more sense.

If all goes well, the NCC would like to have a finalized lease for the land by January 2023.

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The public portion of the meeting is scheduled to take place from 9 am to 11:45 am at the NCC headquarters located on Elgin Street. The LeBreton Flats update is scheduled to begin at 11:15 am and is available to view online.

If you are wondering why no one has confirmed or leaked this news, that would have been dangerous. None of the bidders on LeBreton can say anything publicly because they face expulsion, so senators must tread carefully.

“Proposers may not make public announcements, comments or press releases, including creating content on social media, related to the details of their submissions as part of the REI process,” the NCC said in the fine print of its “Building LeBreton” document. “Violation of this provision is grounds for disqualification, at the sole discretion of the NCC.”

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It is believed that one of Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s final acts before he passed away on March 28 was to sign a proposal for a downtown track before the February 28 deadline for an expression of interest.

While the NCC stated in April that it had “multiple” expressions of interest for a major events hub on the ground located on the edge of downtown Ottawa, an offer from the Senators is the only one that makes sense, with the team from the NHL the main tenant.

Although Senators have been told not to say anything publicly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman all but confirmed Ottawa’s offer while meeting with reporters before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning last week in Denver.

Bettman said senators investigated a tip downtown and that’s the closest anyone has come to saying anything publicly.

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“I know that senators are involved in a process and an attempt to see what the opportunity might be for a new arena at LeBreton Flats,” Bettman added.

After Melnyk’s partnership with Trinity’s John Ruddy fell apart and ended with the two sides suing each other, senators are unlikely to go that route again.

Yes, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and the Senators have teamed up on a bid for the 2022 IIHF junior world championship, but this is a completely different set of circumstances.

Possibly this time Melnyk aligned himself with more powerful associates who are used to making such deals. If senators hadn’t made at least “an expression of interest” in February, then the door would have been completely closed.

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We think Melnyk and his new set of backers dipped their toes in the water to see what the NCC’s thought process is on this. If they didn’t, then the door would be slammed shut, and Melnyk told Postmedia in December that he “was always interested” in a LeBreton opportunity.

During public consultations conducted by the NCC in 2019, it became clear that people wanted a city center stadium on LeBreton Flats.

“The most frequently cited examples of a potential major attraction were a new hockey arena or large events center,” the NCC said in its LeBreton Flats Master concept plan in 2019. “While there is no unanimous support for such a facility It was the most discussed topic.

It will be up to Melnyk’s daughters, Anna and Olivia, to decide if they want to keep the franchise in the family or sell it. They haven’t made a decision on which route they plan to take, but having a lease would only strengthen the value of the franchise.

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There has been no indication that Anna and Olivia plan to sell the franchise and business has been business as usual at the Canadian Tire Center with Anthony LeBlanc, the club’s president of business operations, chief financial officer Erin Crowe and general manager Pierre Dorion reporting to a group of three. board of directors person set up by Melnyk.

Of course, that’s the case because we feel like we’ve been talking about a downtown ballpark since the Senators returned to the ice in 1992.

And the NCC has a chance to give the people what they want: the chance to bring Mayor Jim Watson’s light rail line (if it runs that night) to a downtown stadium so they can watch the Senators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Battle of Ontario.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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