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Sutcliffe not ruling out public funding for new Senators arena


As the sale of the Ottawa Senators heats up, the city's mayor isn't ruling out public funding for a new downtown arena for the team.

But Mark Sutcliffe, who is scheduled to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman next week, says it's too early for discussions about potential public money for a rink on LeBreton Flats.

Asked on Wednesday whether public funding for a new arena is on the table, Sutcliffe said "there isn't a table yet."

"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 told a news conference.

"We don't even know who the new owners are going to be, we don't know if they want to build a new arena, we don't know if they would want to do it on LeBreton Flats or they would want to do it somewhere else. There's a lot of hypotheticals here.”

Bettman is scheduled to be in Ottawa for Monday's Senators game against the Florida Panthers and meet with Sutcliffe during his visit.

"I'm looking forward to meeting with Commissioner Bettman and I'm glad to have the opportunity to speak with him on Monday," Sutcliffe said. "I think the prospective owners are just as interested in Ottawa as they are in the Senators, which I'm excited about."

"The city's got a role to play in this. It may not be a financial role, but there are lots of other ways that the city can contribute to the process. I'm ready to have those conversations, but it's very early."

Bettman said last week that the first phase of the Senators' sale was finished. The current phase involves winnowing down the number of interested parties, a process that would take "a matter of weeks,” Bettman said.

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.

"I think this is a huge opportunity for our city to have new owners and to have new leadership of the team," Sutcliffe said. "There are some interesting names being thrown around about who the new owners might be."

The Senators reached a memorandum of understanding with the National Capital Commission last year aimed at putting an arena at LeBreton Flats, just west of downtown Ottawa. Bettman said last week it will be up to the new owners whether the team moves downtown.

Sutcliffe said once the new owners are in place, that's when the discussion begins about where the team will play over the next 20 years.

"I think it's important for the new owners to signal whether they want to move to LeBreton Flats, to have those negotiations with the NCC and then see where we go from there," Sutcliffe said.

"I'm open to whatever's best for the city of Ottawa and whatever's best for hockey fans and for the Senators,” he added. “So if the owners want to stay in Kanata, if they want to move to LeBreton Flats, if they want to look at other options, I'm interested in having all those discussions."

During the election campaign last fall, Sutcliffe said he did not think the city should be devoting any public funding to an arena.

"I'm not in favour of putting dollars into a private arena," he said at a mayoral debate. "What I am in favour of is seeing a lot of vibrant development on LeBreton Flats, including an arena." Top Stories

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