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Melnyk issues statement to City Council and citizens of Ottawa

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators
OTTAWA – Senators Sports & Entertainment owner Eugene Melnyk issued the following statement to City Council and the citizens of Ottawa:

“A full and proper revitalization of Lansdowne Park and the construction of a new open-air stadium are both defining, city-building priorities for Ottawa. Both represent powerful and necessary catalysts to drive our economy, bolster civic pride and define Ottawa as a world-class city.

Today’s decisions by Council suggests its first priority is to take action and deliver meaningful steps towards an appropriate community-focused revitalization and greening of Lansdowne Park.

The Lansdowne Park site is a valuable and defining piece of Ottawa’s landscape that needs to be approached carefully and thoughtfully. It holds great potential to strengthen the civic context of our community. I support that effort and in no way want to hinder its progress over the next 60 days.

With today’s direction by Council, Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Hunt, Mr. Ruddy and Mr. Shenkman now have a chance to do something great for the city and transform Lansdowne Park into one of Canada’s great public spaces. And while I continue to disagree with the strategic placement of a stadium at Lansdowne Park adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage designated Rideau Canal, I have too much passion for this city to stand in the way of a project that will create positive and significant change.

We all need to keep in mind that stadiums represent a challenging business model. If it were easy, our city wouldn’t be wrestling with the stadium predicament it currently faces.

Stadiums, when situated, designed and operated properly, represent iconic structures that can deliver exceptional, long-term economic value and strengthen the civic context for any city. Stadiums are complex businesses requiring an arsenal of very specialized expertise with an understanding of the long game. After all, it’s not just a business for the here and now but one that must be profitable and properly serve our community for the next half century. That’s the long game and a commitment I was personally prepared to make.

Senators Sports & Entertainment’s core business is operating a professional sports team and operating a professional sports stadium. We have a team that does that very well. I’d also like to think we are a model corporate citizen, always putting our fans and community first.

So, when I tasked my staff at Senators Sports & Entertainment to spend whatever is necessary and invest more than 1,000 hours of time to develop the best stadium proposal for the city with the best economics, best design and best site, they took it very seriously. They delivered a proposal I am immensely proud of and stand behind to this day.

If we thought there was a better model for Ottawa’s world-class stadium, we would have tabled it with the City. There simply isn’t.

I wish to express my profound disappointment that Council clearly doesn’t share my stadium vision nor see the opportunity within it. In life and in business, one encounters rare and infrequent carpe diem moments - opportunities to “seize the day.” Today was a carpe diem moment for Council. Not only did they choose not to seize the day, but they also chose not to seize the future.

Progress is often guided by steady, positive change. We all want progress for Ottawa.

With that in mind, I wish the Lansdowne Live group and the City of Ottawa well and hope their negotiations over the next 60 days are meaningful and progressive. That is clearly the priority and focus so for now I have directed my team at Senators Sports & Entertainment to suspend all further work during this 60-day period and re-channel those valuable resources back to the operational priorities of the Ottawa Senators and Scotiabank Place.

I want to express my thanks to everyone who understood my stadium vision, especially the 1,600 full- and part-time dedicated employees at Senators Sports & Entertainment, as well as the tens of thousands of supporters who shared our passion and dream.

I hope all citizens of Ottawa will continue to do as I do, dream big for our city in the hopes we will one day have a world-class, open-air stadium that will proudly serve the community for the next half century.”

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