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Sutcliffe: LeBreton Flats 'not the only scenario' for NHL rink

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Ottawa's mayor says although LeBreton Flats would be a great location for a new rink for the Ottawa Senators, there are other possible locations for a new NHL arena in the city.

"I think all options are on the table," Mark Sutcliffe told TSN 1200 on Thursday. "It would be great if the LeBreton thing went ahead, but it's not the only scenario."

The sale of the Senators is heating up, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman saying last week that initial offers were complete and the number of bidders would be winnowed down. Where the Senators play will be a major decision for whoever buys the team.

The Senators reached a memorandum of understanding with the National Capital Commission last year aimed at putting an arena on LeBreton Flats, just west of downtown Ottawa. The site is located directly on the city's LRT line between two stations.

But Sutcliffe said although it would be a "great location," the rink doesn't necessarily have to go there.

"I'm open to whatever makes sense, and I think there are other opportunities," he said.

"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."

Sutcliffe is scheduled to meet with Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly when they visit Ottawa on Monday.

Sutcliffe said a new arena would "ideally" be located downtown, but not necessarily.

"It all depends on where it would be built and what the deal would be and what would be around it," he said. "I think we've seen throughout North America that downtown arenas are better than suburban arenas, typically. But I wouldn't rule out the possibility that whoever the new owners are might decide that they want to stay in Kanata and refurbish that arena.

"I wouldn't rule out the deal being struck with the NCC for LeBreton Flats and I wouldn't rule out looking at another location as well. I think all options are on the table."

Bettman also said last week it would be up to the new owners whether they stay in Kanata or build a new arena.

LeBreton 'not right downtown'

Sutcliffe also said that although the LeBreton Flats land sits between two transit stations, "it's not right downtown."

"If you live in Kanata, LeBreton Flats feels downtown. But if you're downtown, it's not walking distance from Elgin Street for most people, especially in January," he said.

And the mayor said that although the area will get built up, right now there's not a lot around there in terms of entertainment.

"That area, if there's an arena, will get built up. But when the arena opens there may not be a lot around it in terms of restaurants, and bars and other activities," he said. "It's a good location, but it's not the only location necessarily."

Bettman said last week the process of winnowing down the number of interested parties would take “a matter of weeks.”

Sports business news publication Sportico reported earlier this month that nine different groups submitted bids to buy the franchise, with some valuing the team north of $900 million U.S.

The prospective owners include Montreal Canadiens minority owner Michael Andlauer and a consortium including actor Ryan Reynolds and Toronto-based real estate company The Remington Group, Sportico reported.

City money for arena 'very, very, very unlikely'

Sutcliffe reiterated that he's "not a fan" of public money going into an arena, but added he doesn't want to rule it out because it's too early.

"I'm not a fan of public money going into an arena. I wouldn't be supportive of that in principle," he said. "I'm not ruling anything out at this point, because we don't know what the scenario will be and what the opportunity might be."

The mayor raised the example of a facility with more than one rink or other infrastructure that the city could use.

"I wouldn't rule out a scenario where there are some city dollars going into it." He said. "But I want to be clear: By saying I'm not ruling it out, it doesn't mean I'm in favour of it.

"I think that's very, very, very unlikely that the city will write a big cheque to support this. We have a very tight budget and we have a lot of other priorities. There are other ways that the city can be involved in this without stroking a big cheque.

"I don't think there's a lot of public appetite for taxpayers' dollars to go into an arena. So I don't see that happening, but again, I don't want to rule anything out."

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