Senators moving minor league team to Belleville, Ont.

The Ottawa Senators are moving their top minor league team from Binghamton, N.Y., to Belleville, Ont., the team announced Monday.

Belleville Senators will play at a renovated Yardmen Arena for 8 seasons starting in fall 2017

Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher (left) holds up a sweater with Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who bought the Binghamton Senators and signed an eight-year deal to move them to Belleville. (@Senators/Twitter)

The Ottawa Senators are moving their top minor league team from Binghamton, N.Y., to Belleville, Ont.

Owner Eugene Melnyk has bought the Binghamton Senators, the team announced Monday. The Belleville Senators will start to play in fall 2017.

"We're very excited and very proud of having a minimum of [an] eight-year lease with Mr. Melnyk to be bringing the Belleville senators to Belleville," said Belleville Mayor Taso Christopher at a news conference.

"That's a milestone in today's hockey world, to have a relationship and a partnership with an owner that's willing to go eight years, minimum."

"In the end I knew it was a hockey town," Melnyk said. "You have a great, deep history [of] hockey here."

Belleville city council put a team together to try and find another "major hockey tenant" for its Yardmen Arena after its junior hockey team the Bulls moved to Hamilton after 34 years in Belleville.

The Belleville Bulls moved to Hamilton last fall. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

Earlier in the day city council voted in favour of $18.5 million in upgrades to the arena and a $2 million contingency fund, approving the single-sourced proposal from a group of Canadian architects.

"Geographically, our relative proximity to the nation's capital makes this a tremendously exciting partnership that will undoubtedly bring our cities and our hockey fans together," said Christopher in a news release.

It's about a 200-kilometre drive from the Canadian Tire Centre to the Yardmen Arena in Belleville, compared to the 430-kilometre drive and international border crossing required to get from the Canadian Tire Centre to the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton. 

The Binghamton Senators have been developing players and coaches in the upstate New York city since 2002, winning the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship in 2011.

In a statement, Binghamton Senators executive vice-president of operations Tom Mitchell said the news would have "no impact on the AHL's presence" in the area and said it will soon share more of its plans to keep the NHL's top minor league in the city.

The team will still play this season in Binghamton.