Melnyk game for football

DEREK PUDDICOMBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

An outdoor soccer stadium being pitched by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk could also play host to CFL football, a city committee heard yesterday.

Melnyk was at City Hall making his case to the city's planning and advisory committee to secure moral and financial support to build a $110-million, 20,000-seat open-air soccer stadium on a piece of city-owned land near Scotiabank Place.

The CFL franchise is central to the rival stadium proposal before the city, which is spearheaded by Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ottawa 67's. The CFL has already granted Hunt's group a conditional franchise, but it's dependent on the city renovating the stadium at Lansdowne Park.

Nobody from the Hunt group was at City Hall yesterday, something that didn't go unnoticed.

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder said Melnyk and his group made a good move speaking at committee.

"He showed his cosmopolitan flare, as opposed to the other group," she said.

If council supports Melnyk's bid the conditional franchise would likely be pulled, but Melnyk didn't rule out also taking on a football team.

"We could potentially," he said. "I like football but I like soccer better."

Melnyk said if he were to field a CFL team there would have to be some design changes to the stadium, but that wouldn't be a problem.

In Melnyk's proposal, the cost would be shared one-third among the provincial and federal governments and the city. Melnyk's share would be part of the city's one-third, which is about $37 million.

Bolster economy

Melnyk said he is prepared to invest $50 million of his own money to bring a Major Soccer League franchise to Ottawa and guaranteed committee members a soccer team would become as integral to the city as the Ottawa Senators hockey club.

"I don't believe there is any other stadium model that would serve the city," said Melnyk, adding soccer has billions of fans around the world. "With the exception of a Stanley Cup I want nothing more than to bring the world to Ottawa."

Melnyk said a new state of the art stadium would bolster the city's economy, drive tourism, create 1,600 full- and part-time jobs and would "remind everyone why Ottawa is Canada's capital."

Since taking over the Ottawa Senators, which he said at the time was a "mess," the organization and Scotiabank Place have become a sports and entertainment success.

"Scotiabank Place is one of the top NHL arenas in North America and one of the Top 40 entertainment arenas in the world," said Melnyk.

Cyril Leeder, Ottawa Senators COO, said a long-time stadium tenant would generate about $9 million a year for the city and suggested that over the past decade the Senators have generated close to $170 million a year in economic benefits.

City council is scheduled to make a decision on the stadium by mid-April and are expected to debate a staff report regarding the two unsolicited proposals at today's council meeting.


Videos

Photos