OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk took another important step Thursday in his bid to build an arena in downtown Ottawa.
The National Capital Commission, which oversees the LeBreton Flats on the western edge of downtown, announced Melnyk's RendezVous LeBreton organization is the "preferred proponent" to develop the 53-acre site.
RendezVous LeBreton is a 135-member team of urban planners, transportation experts, architects and environmental advisers that spent 14 months assembling a 2,000-page proposal called IllumiNATION LeBreton, which was submitted Dec. 15, 2015.
On April 28, the NCC said the proposal was the higher-ranked of the two submitted, and the NCC and RendezVous LeBreton have spent the past six months developing the concept. Thursday's announcement means the Melnyk group has the go-ahead to work with the NCC to develop the site.
"Today's decision by the NCC to grant us preferred proponent status is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by a 135-member expert team and countless others who shared our vision for LeBreton Flats," Melnyk said in a statement. "We are proud of the fact that many of our team members live in the National Capital Region and understand the history of LeBreton Flats and how transformative this project will be for the nation's capital.
"On behalf of our dedicated team, I would like to thank the National Capital Commission and its Board of Directors for sharing our vision of creating a signature destination and a modern urban community to welcome even more visitors to the National Capital Region."
The IlluminNATION LeBreton proposal has an 18,000-seat arena as its main feature. The plan also calls for an adjacent open square that could accommodate 28,000 people, a two-rink practice facility and a 250,000-square-foot multipurpose recreational facility. The proposal also includes 2.8 million square feet of retail space and five neighborhoods with 4,400 residential units.
Senators president Cyril Leeder said in January that if the RendezVous LeBreton bid were to be accepted, the Senators could be playing downtown as soon as 2021. The Senators current arena, Canadian Tire Centre, is located 17 miles west of downtown Ottawa.
"The timing is not as important as getting the plan right," he said.