OTTAWA — Eugene Melnyk says his pursuit of a Major League Soccer franchise for Ottawa will continue after Portland was awarded an expansion team Friday.
The Senators Sports & Entertainment owner had hoped to be among the two groups selected this week to join the league, but the clubs were awarded to Vancouver and Portland instead.
His bid was hurt by ongoing talks with city officials to secure the land and partial funding to build a $110-million, 20,000-seat soccer stadium near the Senators arena in the western Ottawa region of Kanata.
“Absolutely nothing has changed with respect to the level of effort and resources Senators Sports & Entertainment is placing toward our MLS expansion and stadium efforts in Ottawa,” Melnyk said in a statement. “The main hurdle for us is to gain the city’s support for our proposed world-class stadium.
“We continue to work very closely with council and city staff in securing a favourable decision by its meeting on April 22.”
Complicating things with the city is a group led by Jeff Hunt, owner of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, which has been granted a conditional CFL franchise. That group is also looking for the city’s approval to redevelop Lansdowne Park in its downtown area.
Ottawa city council has said it will approve money for either a soccer facility, a football stadium, or neither.
Earlier in the week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that while Ottawa wasn’t likely to be the league’s 18th franchise, there was no reason why “they can’t be either the 19th or the 20th.”
“In order for us to even consider Ottawa they have to get behind Major League Soccer,” he said
Wednesday after awarding Vancouver a team. “We are very hopeful they will be able to reach a positive vote.
“If they do, then I think we’ve taken a positive step in that city.”