Melnyk down in the dump

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Eugene Melnyk can't stand losing.

He made that point abundantly clear again yesterday.

Silent on the stadium issue -- city council is set to vote today on a motion to negotiate with a group trying to refurbish Lansdowne Park -- the Senators owner made one final effort to save his bid for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise and a 20,000-seat stadium in Kanata

While Melnyk -- who didn't attend Monday's joint committee meeting -- maintained in a statement last night that he'd be "a team player" if council supports the Lansdowne Live bid, there was a sense of frustration in his final defence of a proposal many believe will be officially killed today.

"I don't make investment decisions lightly," Melnyk said in the statement. "My team has exhaustively reviewed the business model for the soccer franchise and stadium in Kanata. I am completely convinced it is a superior investment from both a business and fan-base perspective and also from the city's perspective."

Melnyk should be breathing a sigh of relief -- council is about to save him the $65 million he was going to have to put up, which included the $50-million franchise fee to the MLS.

Even for Melnyk in these tough economic times, it might be difficult to justify spending that kind of cash. Especially since he admitted earlier this month he's going to lose money on the Senators with the club out of the playoffs and Scotiabank Place pretty quiet.

Barring a last-minute change of heart -- and anything is possible -- the group led by local businessmen Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy, Bill Shenkman and Jeff Hunt will be given 60 days to negotiate an agreement with the city on a final plan for the Lansdowne Live scenario.

While nothing is ever certain at City Hall, it would appear the only shovel that'll hit the ground on the land Melnyk wants to use to build a soccer stadium in Kanata will be the kind that's used to move white stuff in the winter.

And that should come as no surprise. There's no appetite for professional soccer in this city. There never has been and there likely never will be. Let's put it this way, people aren't exactly clamouring to get tickets for soccer.

Of course, when Melnyk launched his bid for a soccer stadium in Kanata, he never thought it would turn into a soccer vs. football debate.

According to Melnyk's group, there are more than 90,000-plus registered soccer players in the region and the game is growing. No wonder the MLS wants to bring an expansion franchise here. Why wouldn't they? Especially if Melnyk is ready to offer up the franchise fee.

A couple of weeks ago, the Lansdowne Live group approached Melnyk, offering him the chance to house the CFL team along with the MLS franchise. Melnyk insisted he didn't believe that would make financial sense and he wasn't willing to put his bid at risk.

"We thoroughly reviewed the business case and logistics of fielding a successful CFL franchise and MLS franchise at the same time in Kanata -- and to be frank, it just didn't add up," said Melnyk. "After careful thought, I declined the opportunity to put both teams in the same stadium. The risk was too high -- and I was not prepared to put the stability of the whole organization on the line for a last-minute deal."

Let's face it, the city is using the land Melnyk wants to develop as a snow dump for a reason. That's the way it will stay -- even if he did put up his dukes for one last time yesterday.


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