Jim Durrell will always be known to Ottawa residents as the ‘Sport Mayor’. He served as the Ottawa mayor from 1985 to 1991 and was instrumental in developing this city as a destination for professional sports.
One of his key achievements in the world of sport was to help Ottawa secure a National Hockey League franchise in 1990 and returning the Senators to the NHL. In the same year, while he was still the mayor, he was named president of the new Ottawa Senators team. He resigned from the mayor’s post shortly after because of the demands of his new role. He served as the Senators’ president for a number of years.
Apart from hockey, Durrell also took a keen interest in other sports. He helped secure the CFL’s 1988 Grey Cup game and when the Ottawa Rough Riders needed financial assistance, Durrell was at the forefront to obtain tax grants to keep the team alive.
It was on his insistence that a Triple A baseball team relocated to Ottawa. The Ottawa Lynx played in a new 10,000-seat stadium, which regularly saw full capacity crowds during their first two seasons.
He was also involved in the bidding for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, which was won by Victoria.
Apart from sports, Durrell was also extremely active on the business front. He was on the board of the Business Development Bank of Canada, he was the Chairman of the Ottawa International Airport’s Board of Directors and Chairman of the Ottawa Convention Centre. He is also the Chair of Hydro Ottawa Ltd and Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc. and Vice-Chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board.
He was also involved with many charitable organizations including the Ottawa Hospital, the United Way/Centraide Ottawa Campaign Cabinet, the Salvation Army and the Kiwanis Club.
In recognition of his efforts, Durrell received the Order of Canada in December 2012. The next year in June, he was felicitated by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce with a Lifetime Achievement Award – becoming the first recipient of that honour. In September 203, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and in November, he received the Order of Ottawa. In 2015 he was the recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.
The Jim Durrell Recreation Centre on Walkey Road is named in his honour.
During his tenure as mayor, Durrell constantly tried to inject professional sports into Ottawa and the city is now reaping the benefits.