Senators one step closer to downtown arena after development bid selected by committee

The Ottawa Senators are inching closer to building and moving into a downtown area after a team-backed group was selected as the first choice for developing the LeBreton Flats site. The Senators have played at the Canadian Tire Centre since 1996.

The Senators have spent the past 20 seasons playing in nearby Kanata, which is located just outside of Ottawa, but the team took a big step towards heading back into the heart of Canada’s capital after winning a development bid for a 53-acre site situated west of downtown Ottawa.

At a vote Thursday, the National Capital Commission chose to proceed into negotiations with RendezVous LeBreton Group, which is backed by the Senators, concerning the future development of the LeBreton Flats site. The development bid, called IllumiNATION LeBreton, includes five neighborhoods, an aqueduct that can be turned into a skating path in winter and, of course, a brand new arena that would play host to the Senators.

“I’m so glad we won,” Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said of the decision, via CBC’s Paul Jay. “I know that we’re going to deliver on everything we said we would do, and I think it’s going to change the landscape of this city, for sure. It’s going to be a huge, huge win all around.”

The RendezVous LeBreton Group was one of two bids being considered for the site. The other bid by Devcore Canderel DLS Group also included an arena, but Melnyk said earlier this year had the opposing bid won the right to move ahead with negotiations the Senators wouldn’t have been moving downtown to play in a building owned by another group.

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“I haven’t talked to them. I don’t have any intention of selling the team at any price,” Melnyk told TSN 1200 in January. “That’s not just talk. They’ll find out in the first meeting. I’ll be glad to meet with the guys if they’re buying lunch. Why not? They’re nice people. They want to get into the hockey market. We’re in the hockey market.”

According to the IllumiNATION LeBreton website, the proposed arena would be an 18,000-seat building — down from 19,000-plus seats in the Senators’ current home — but would offer a square out front for entertainment that would hold up to 28,000 people. The IllumiNATION LeBreton proposal also includes the “Sensplex,” which would feature two NHL-sized rinks for community use, act as a potential second venue for major hockey tournaments and be used by the Senators as a practice facility.

Previously, Melnyk had said if the Senators-backed bid was successful the team would find its way to the downtown arena by the 2020-21 campaign. That could still be in the cards, but the NCC said the timeline for simply approving construction could take a significant amount of time, going as far as to say it could be 2019 before the final approval is given for development. An update on negotiations is expected by the end of 2016.