Melnyk Speaks: More Or Less Calls Mayor An Alien

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk made a rare (ha!) appearance on the Fan 590′s Prime Time Sports to talk almost explicitly about his difficulty dealing with the City of Ottawa over the sole-sourcing of a prospective casino. To listen to the Euge’s interview, you can listen to or download it off the Fan’s website (right click, save this file) or you can simply stream it below. (Note: The Melnyk interview starts near the 18:00 minute mark.)

I’ve transcribed his comments below. Normally, I would throw in my own comments in bold, but I don’t even think they’re necessary in this instance.

On the prospective casino location in Kanata…

“Well, the Canadian Tire Centre is the arena – which it was renamed. It used to be called Scotiabank and we renamed it the Canadian Tire Centre. A sign just went up. It looks gorgeous and we’ve got about 80 acres of land there. There was supposed to be… So for seven years, going back to the (Dalton) McGuinty days, I came in and said, ‘You know, if there’s going to a chance, I’d love to build a casino out there (near Scotiabank Place),’ because if you go across the (Ottawa) River from downtown Ottawa maybe fifteen minutes and you’re at Lac Leamy – which is a nice casino. And (McGuinty) said himself, he said, ’90-percent of the (license) plates are (from) Ontario and all the problems come back to our province and (Quebec) gets all of the cash, so we’re very open to this.’ So we started working on a plan and then all a sudden the OLG gets involved and everybody else gets involved and says, ‘This is going to be a big, master plan.’ So, you know, we’re ready. I’ve got casino operators. I’m really a land operator; I’ve got about 80 acres of land around Kanata and the City is growing that way. It’s growing west, west, west. And it’s like Mississauga was 30 years ago. Then, all of a sudden, these guys come out and it was hilarious. People submitted… The OLG, and this is where there is a lot of bull going around… The OLG went to everybody and said, ‘Okay guys, tell us where you don’t want a casino because we’ve got all these submissions and we don’t want to spend hundreds of hours on looking at submissions when you guys aren’t going to approve a casino in this area – like next to a national monument or something.’ So Kingston comes in and they’ve got this little, tiny square in the middle of the town and said, ‘Look, that is the only place that we don’t really want.’ Then you go to Ottawa and (the City) has blacked out the whole city other than (Rideau Carleton Raceway). And I said, ‘You can’t do that – that’s called sole-sourcing.’ It’s illegal, for one. You can’t do it and they go ahead and they try to do it.”

On the City wanting a casino location at Rideau Carleton Raceway only…

“They have one now, they have got a bunch of slots there. Now, you’ve got to understand the casino… Now, you know I’m a big, HUGE, horseracing guy. I’ve been going around the racetracks since I was sixteen. So, you’re talking to somebody that knows racetracks, knows the plight of racing and in fact, I lobbied to get Woodbine, not to shut down Woodbine with their casino money because I said, ‘It’s not good.’ They spent twenty years turning it into a world class place, which is now on TVG and all these networks and everything else, and now they’re going to blow it all up, so I lobbied for them. But (RCR) is a little, tiny C-Track that wouldn’t even make it in the Idaho State Fair.”

On where the RCR’s location is…

“It’s kind of like in a bad area. It’s not a great area. It’s kind of near the airportish, but downtown and it’s like nowhere. There’s no public transit or anything like that. You would never go there, put it that way.”

On it being southwestish…

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayeah, I think so. I mean, I wouldn’t set foot in it. So I’ve got to be honest with you: I was there about 15 years ago just to lay down a quick bet for a horse and watch a race and then I was out of there; that was it.”

On whether the City of Ottawa owes him an opportunity to do something because of what the Senators have meant to the City and whether the Senators can survive if he can’t build a casino…

“Well, there is two things: one is fair play. I didn’t ask for anything. All I said is, ‘Guys, go through a normal process.’ Like, you’re… you’re supposed to do a bidding (note: he stops himself short of saying ‘war’)… Like, there’s supposed to be submissions of a bid – and why is this the best spot? Why should we do it at the casino? Why should we do it downtown? Why should we do it in Kanata? What economic impact (is there?) What environmental impact (is there)? Who’s got the most parking? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And these guys just said, ‘No, it’s going to be (at RCR) or it’s not going to be anywhere. Period. You don’t even submit (a bid).’ Win, lose or draw, I don’t mind losing. But these guys didn’t even give me a shot. Then you’ve got the Mayor. I don’t know what planet he’s flown in from, but he then turns around and says, ‘No, no, (RCR) is the only place we’re going to do it.’ And then his Deputy Mayor, Steve Desroches, says in this big, big meeting where all the pow-wows get together and says, ‘There’s too much competition in the world right now.’ And then I said, ‘You know what, they should have named Neptune after you – that’s where you belong because… what did you just say? Tell me again how you got elected.’ But look, at the end of the day, and I don’t want to dwell on it… at the end of the day, it’s all going to come out – who benefitted… how… why… it’s all going to come out.”

On the casino issue being dead for him…

“No, we’re just getting warmed up.”

On whether he believes the City owes him, if not a casino license, owes him the opportunity to do something to support his hockey team that is losing money…

“No, not me; they owe everybody. Like I said, I don’t care if I win, lose or draw, just do it right. Do a competition. It’s like, you’re not the only guys in the race and let’s see if you can stand on your own. If I lose, I lose. I go home and come up with a Plan C. Right now, there’s no Plan C. Can we survive? You know what, it all depends on how the team does. It all depends on, can we find a third revenue source. There’s only so much (we can do). I tried to build, like you said earlier, a soccer stadium. I said, ‘Okay’. They say, ‘Well, you guys are all out in the boonies out in Kanata.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, because I’ve been trying to build the damn thing for ten years now.’ So I say… I get Garbor, the Commissioner of the MLS – the soccer league. Okay, so we fly around in helicopters. I show him where the place is. He says, ‘Look, if you get a stadium in there’, virtually without committing, he says, ‘You’ve got a team. This is a great place. Beautiful.’ We propose (the MLS bid to the City) and no, what do they do? Bring CFL football back to Ottawa (for) a third time and they gave a $400 million gift of land to a group of insiders there. And that was it, so I get killed there. All of a sudden, I don’t know what their fixation is, but if anybody knows about horseracing… these horses (at RCR) run for $4,000 a race. That’s their purse. I heard that before slots came in, it was $2,000, but that’s the level of competition you’re talking about versus the cheapest of the cheapest races anywhere in Toronto, (the Toronto purse) would be $40,000.”

On RCR being a dump…

“Oh, I wouldn’t go there without an army.”

On still being steamed about the Alfie departure…

“Nah, I’m not steaming at all. It’s all water under the bridge. We’ve turned that page a long time ago. We’re all excited about the team we’ve got coming this year. We’ve got Bobby Ryan coming in – he’s all pumped (up). Turris. You’ve got Spez coming in. Michalek. Your top defenceman, your top goalie. If we stay healthy or marginally healthy, we’re going to go deep. And I’ve got to tell you, for all the Leaf fans out there, I’m proud of what they’ve done – the management – because they’re going to be competitive this year, they really will. I’m looking forward to some great rivalries and I think it’s going to be a great season of hockey. I think there are going to be some surprises.”

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