When the National Capital Commission abandoned the dysfunctional RendezVous LeBreton deal in 2018, there were plenty of hard feelings. At the time, the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats was going nowhere as the group’s partners – Ottawa Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk and Trinity Development Chair John Ruddy – were quarreling and suing each other. Like a parent who pulls the car over, fed up with their kids fighting in the back seat, the NCC put a stop to everything.
The deal was dead.
But time heals all, and the dream of a downtown NHL arena is now very much alive again. The NCC and the Senators are back on the same page again as the Commission announced today a memorandum of understanding with the club and its new partners with the goal of constructing a new NHL arena at LeBreton Flats.
Six months ago, the NCC launched a request for expressions of interest to seek ideas and bidders for two major attraction sites on two specific parcels of land at Lebreton. Only one of the two is big enough for an NHL-ready facility and that’s the 6.3 acre parcel on Albert Street, between City Centre Avenue and Preston Street.
A new multi-use facility will fit nicely there, but with limited parking. Fans will lean heavily on light rail transit to get to and from games and concerts, saying goodbye to the joys of Palladium Drive post-game traffic jams.
Naturally, the NCC went through all the standard evaluation and negotiations with their multiple bidders, but ultimately decided to go with Capital Sports Development Incorporated, a partnership headed up by the Senators. Just like the hockey team that’s overhauled its roster over the last few years, there are many new faces on the Senators’ side of the partnership. Anna and Olivia Melnyk have taken ownership of the team, following the death of Eugene Melnyk earlier this year.
The Senators have also taken on new partners for this venture like Sterling Project Development and Populous, which have planned, designed, and constructed some of the finest sports facilities and buildings in the world. They’re joined by Tipping Point Sports, a sports finance and advisory firm, and Live Nation, an entertainment company that will help ensure the new facility rarely has a night off.
“Today’s announcement marks a significant move towards our long-term vision, a downtown arena at LeBreton Flats,” said Anthony LeBlanc, Senators’ President of Business Operations, in a club press release. “We believe that this development will have a major impact on both the Nation Capital Region and our franchise, one that will help to shape the future of the city. We thank the NCC for their collaboration and look forward to working alongside them as we take the next steps on this exciting journey.”
The NCC said it hopes to figure out a long-term lease by the fall of 2023. Additionally, the City of Ottawa still has to approve the plans. So, we’re still very early in the process, and a long way from cheering on the Ottawa Senators in a new, state of the art downtown venue. Perhaps fans should just cheer for peace and harmony within the partnership.
Based on recent history, that may be ambitious enough for now.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine