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If the Ottawa Senators want to move downtown, it will be up to the team to foot the bill.
That’s the stance of Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, who on Thursday told Jon Willing of the Ottawa Citizen that the local government won’t help subsidize a new facility for the Senators.
While Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has made no public comment about the city helping to fund a new arena, Watson appears to be getting ahead of the game.
Rival Canadian cities, like Edmonton, have helped bankroll new facilities in recent seasons, and until recent discussions hit a standstill, Calgary was also in talks with the Flames on arena project funding.
“We should not be using property tax dollars to subsidize an NHL team,” Watson said. “That’s not the role of a municipal government, in my opinion.”
As it stands, Melnyk is in negotiations with the National Capital Commission to build a new arena in the downtown neighborhood of LeBreton Flats. The hope is that a move closer to the city core will reinvigorate the team’s sagging attendance figures.
The Senators currently play out of suburban Kanata, a commute that has proven to be a challenge for fans in recent seasons, particularly during last year’s playoff run.
In the meantime, Melnyk hasn’t been shy in voicing his frustrations with the sluggish pace of negotiations with the National Capital Commission.
That was especially evident ahead of last month’s Centennial Classic, when he floated the possibility the Senators could leave Ottawa if the team’s financial position did not improve, something that could become reality if a new arena does not come to fruition.
Those comments didn’t sit well with Watson.
“It was not helpful when Eugene blurted out that maybe (the Senators) don’t have to move downtown because that’s exactly at odds with what he and (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman have been telling me going back four years, that the arena has to be in the downtown core,” Watson added.
“I’m hoping he misspoke and is not casting doubt on all of the work we’re putting in to getting the arena and the whole site revitalized in the downtown.”