Fight Between Ottawa And Senators Over Casino Cools, Relations Improve

When Ottawa agreed to the OLG’s proposal for a casino in the city, the bidding process began taking bets on a location and manager of the facility.  The process put numerous options on the table, including interest from the Ottawa Senators organization to build a casino near the Canadian Tire Centre arena on the southern edge of town.

However, Ottawa city council voted that the city’s racetrack, Rideau Carlton Raceway would be the only considered location to house the casino.  This vote shut out Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who lobbied hard in favour of the casino, yet felt betrayed by city council that he would be unable to present his bid.

The city and the Senators engaged in a very bitter feud for months over the process, with Melnyk and Senators President Cyril Leeder removing themselves from all community development boards and committees.  Melnyk threatened to sue the city, arguing that the casino bidding process should be open to all willing operators, and even suggested the Senators could leave Ottawa.

But since the beginning of the new year, the relationship between Ottawa and the Senators has improved.  The two parties received the results of a University of Ottawa study that concluded the Senators are “very important” to the local economy.

Ottawa is bidding for the rights to special events like the NHL All Star game, as well as Canadian cultural events like the Juno Awards, which would be held inside the Canadian Tire Centre.  The Senators are not as secure as other Canadian NHL franchises, and hosting other events at the Canadian Tire Centre would add new revenues to support the ailing team.

Melnyk has backed off his legal battle, and Leeder has rejoined community boards across Ottawa, working closely with Mayor Jim Watson and other councilors.  Might the parties all share a pint for St. Patrick’s Day to commemorate their healing relationship?

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