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Ontario premier non-committal about provincial funding for new Senators arena

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford had little to say Tuesday when asked whether the provincial government would put up money to build a new NHL arena in downtown Ottawa, despite records showing lobbyists have met with provincial officials.

The office of the Integrity Commissioner of Ontario's lobbyist registry shows lobbyists from Capital Sports Development Inc.—the Senators-led group interested in LeBreton Flats—have met with provincial officials four times in the last year; twice last November, once in March and once in May. Files say the group is "engaging with provincial officials to discuss support for a world-class professional sports arena at LeBreton Flats in Ottawa."

There have long been discussions around the possibility of the Ottawa Senators moving out of the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata to be closer to the city's downtown core.

Central to the talks is LeBreton Flats, federal lands that are undergoing redevelopment. The National Capital Commission is confident the team will build in the area. The NCC has extended the Senators' due-diligence period for the memorandum of understanding until the fall after Michael Andlauer bought the team from Anna and Olivia Melnyk, the daughters of late former Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ford, who was in Ottawa ahead of a local byelection, said he had not heard anything about funding a new arena.

"No one's proposed that to me. I haven't heard that from Mayor (Mark) Sutcliffe, so let's see what he has to say and we'll decide from there," Ford said.

It's not known how much a new arena would cost to build, or how much taxpayer money might be involved. Earlier this year, before the sale of the Senators was complete, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he did not ask for any public dollars for a new arena during a meeting with Sutcliffe in March.

Sutcliffe, for his part, has not ruled out the possibility of public money going into a future arena project.

"There's no question the city's budget is tight, and there are lots of other priorities, so I'm not a fan of putting city money into an arena, but it depends on so many factors," he said.

But Sutcliffe has also suggested a new arena could be built somewhere other than LeBreton Flats.

"Obviously the LeBreton site is great in terms of its proximity to transit, but there are other sites close to transit," he said. "Where the baseball stadium is right now, near Hurdman station, Bayview Yards…there are all kinds of places that are close to transit that you could see building event centres and facilities that large numbers of people would use."

There has been no public announcement from the Senators about a future arena since Andlauer took ownership of the team.

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