OTTAWA -- Owner Eugene Melnyk appointed Tom Anselmi, the former chief operating officer and president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, as president and CEO of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, replacing Cyril Leeder.
Melnyk said Anslemi, who led the development of Air Canada Centre in Toronto, is the man to spearhead the development of a new arena in downtown Ottawa as part of the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats.
Melnyk was granted "preferred proponent" status by the National Capital Commission, which oversees the 53-acre LeBreton Flats area just west of Parliament Hill in downtown Ottawa, in November. Melnyk said that's when he started thinking he needed an executive like Anselmi to oversee the development.
"This is a $4 billion-$5 billion project," Melnyk said. "It is a massive, massive, project that will rebuild downtown Ottawa and we take it very, very seriously. For that you need somebody with experience and I think Tom brings that."
Melnyk recognized Leeder's role in bringing the NHL back to Ottawa and thanked him for 25 years of service. Leeder, Senators founder and former owner Bruce Firestone, and Randy Sexton led the effort to bring back the Senators and win an expansion franchise in 1990.
"I'd like to acknowledge and to thank deeply Cyril for all the work he has done," Melnyk said. "Everyone knows him here and he's been a great contributor, a founder and truly an inspiration to all of us in the work he has done for the last 25 years."
Anselmi was promoted to chief operating officer at MLSE in 1999 and president in 2012.
"This has come together fairly quickly," Anselmi said. "I think I got a first call sometime around mid-December. My golf game wasn't getting any better and it seemed interesting, especially being aware of the new arena concept.
"Before you know it, I started to think about the 150th anniversary of our country and Ottawa being sort of the cradle of the game, the nation's capital. The opportunity was too interesting to pass up. We've got a lot of work to do. The first 25 years of this franchise were terrific. The next 25 years are going to be even better."
Melnyk's RendezVous LeBreton organization has proposed an 18,000-seat arena as its main feature on the LeBreton site. There would also be an adjacent open square which could accommodate 28,000 people, a two-rink practice facility and a 250,000-square-foot multipurpose recreational facility. The proposal would also include 2.8 million square feet of retail space and five neighborhoods with 4,400 residential units.
RendezVous LeBreton is in negotiations with the commission to finalize an agreement to develop the site.