Now that Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is blowing up his LeBreton Flats arena plans by suing his development partners, the gloves are coming off. In the latest twist, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who Melnyk’s suit claims threatened to withdraw support for the arena if Melnyk pulled out of the plans — yeah, I know, just go with it — said yesterday that Melnyk tried to get public money for the project even after promising “no government money” would be involved:
“Their original opening discussion with our staff is that they wanted the city to build the arena, and I said that we’re not in the business of building arenas,” Watson told reporters after the final council meeting of the term.
A Senators exec immediately denounced Watson’s statement, but in a classic non-denial denial:
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Nicolas Ruszkowski, the team’s chief operating officer, called Watson’s comments “disappointing and inaccurate.”
He said the two sides met at the city’s suggestion to talk about funding models, but when the city made it clear it didn’t want to be involved, the Senators moved on.
“Numerous options for the development of the site were discussed; including, for instance, the adoption of Edmonton’s arena development model. When informed that this was impossible, [Rendezvous LeBreton] moved on,” he said in a statement, adding Melnyk never demanded the city build an arena.
So the Edmonton model — which, as a reminder, involved more than $300 million in public cash, mostly from handing over property tax receipts from the entire area around the arena — “was discussed,” meaning somebody raised it. Then the mayor’s office informed Melnyk that that model wouldn’t work, and the mayor clearly wouldn’t have proposed it only to immediately un-propose it, so obviously it was Senators officials who asked about getting taxpayer money. But that’s not “demanding the city build an arena,” because it’s just different, okay?
Then Ruszkowski doubled down by saying that even though he would never have asked for tax dollars for the Senators, not giving them tax dollars is a double standard, because the city previously spent money on renovating its CFL stadium for the RedBlacks. That’s so unfair! Not giving Melnyk money that he would never think of asking for! The nerve of some people.