Melnyk serious about MLS in Ottawa

Eugene Melnyk and his Senators Sports and Entertainment group officially launched a bid for a Major League Soccer franchise in Ottawa on Tuesday along with plans for a west-end stadium.

Senators owner announces bid for expansion team, plans for stadium

The owner of the NHL's Ottawa Senators and junior hockey's Mississauga St. Michael's Majors wants to add a Major League Soccer franchise to his portfolio, and made his intentions known Tuesday.

Eugene Melnyk and his Senators Sports and Entertainment group made their bid for a MLS team public in Ottawa, along with plans for a west-end stadium that would seat up to 30,000.

"Soccer is a sport with a global reach and presence. It is a sport steeped in culture and tradition, with a unique ability to connect fans from around the world," said Melnyk in a statement. "We want to bring the world's game to Ottawa and there is no better way to do that than to become part of Major League Soccer

MLS will add four teams over the next four years, with Seattle and Philadelphia expected to join the 14-team league by 2010. An expansion franchise in Ottawa, considered a long shot by some, would have to wait until a three-year Canadian exclusivity agreement with Toronto FC runs out before the 2010 season.

In July, basketball superstar Steve Nash announced he has invested in the USL's Vancouver Whitecaps as part of the team's bid to bring MLS to the city.

Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa are among nine teams in the running for two expansion clubs, MLS commissioner Don Garber said earlier in the summer.

In the United States, there is reported interest from Atlanta, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Portland, Ore., and a second team for the New York area.

Ottawa's stadium — the development is contingent on the franchise — would be built in Kanata, adjacent to the Senators home arena, Scotiabank Place, and feature a natural grass pitch and five community soccer pitches located next to the stadium.

"The stadium is a focal point to bringing Major League Soccer to our city but the need for a stadium extends far beyond that. Every world-class city has a world-class outdoor stadium," Melnyk said.

"The stadium is a major investment in our community so we want it to be a multi-purpose entertainment facility. It needs to be a sophisticated hosting venue providing our community with the ability to attract major international sporting events, outdoor concerts and festivals to the nation's capital."

A group headed by Jeff Hunt, owner of junior hockey's Ottawa 67's, has already been awarded a conditional franchise by the Canadian Football League and is interested in revitalizing Lansdowne Park, former home of the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders and Renegades.

The deadline for MLS applications is Oct. 15.