LeBreton Flats arena declared dead as Senators owner can’t reach deal with development partner he tried suing

Today is the deadline for an agreement on a new Ottawa Senators arena at the downtown LeBreton Flats site, but — spoilers! — it ain’t gonna happen:

The National Capital Commission announced Wednesday morning that mediation talks led by retired judge Warren Winkler couldn’t reach a settlement in a dispute among partners of RendezVous LeBreton, a consortium that has spent four years and more than $4 million in planning work.

To recap: Last fall Senators owner Eugene Melnyk sued his erstwhile development partners because he was upset they were also planning on building other development elsewhere; since then the two sides have been in mediation, with the deadline eventually extended until today. Those talks went nowhere, though, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson is hopping mad, or at least Canadian mad:

“I said earlier today one of the frustrations I think in this partnership was Eugene Melnyk (and) the very fact that during the NHL outdoor (game at TD Place in Ottawa in 2017), or just before that, was musing about not even going downtown,” said Watson, who also is a non-voting member of the NCC board.

“I was pretty livid with him back then. I said ‘Wait a minute. You’re putting a lot of time, effort and money into this process and you come out and just muse off the top of your head, ‘Well, I’m not interested in moving downtown.’

“The whole purpose was because you wanted to move the arena downtown because there’s no walk-up traffic in Kanata (home of the Senators’ current arena, the Canadian Tire Centre). You need that kind of walk-up traffic and transit connections to make the arena successful like all arenas in North America are in the downtown core.”

The next step for Melnyk is to do something else crazy and vindictive, I’m sure. When last seen, the Senators owner was (checks notes) offering to play in an arena if somebody else would pay to build it. Any volunteers, please raise your hand, though you may want to consider lawyering up first, as you’ll probably need it.

5 comments on “LeBreton Flats arena declared dead as Senators owner can’t reach deal with development partner he tried suing

  1. So, what EXACTLY does Melnyk want? I read all the linked articles but he seems crazy–hot, then cold, constantly contradicting himself. If he’d just kept out of his own way they’d be about a year away from completing a brand new arena downtown for him. His lawsuit with the development partner was positively insane–be has basically accused the partner of sabotaging his own project which makes absolutely no sense. These stadium deals always come down to greed but it looks like he was on the verge of getting exactly what he wanted and he has never put forward an idea of what he’d rather see happen.

      • LOL. That crossed my mind reading the articles. We’re all used to how these things typically play out: There’s some proposal where owner would pay X amount, he wants to pay less than that so they negotiate. Or he wants all the parking and concessions so they quibble over that, etc. But in this one there never seems to have been any sort of counter proposal. He just fluctuated between hot and cold about 4 times without anything seemingly changing.

        You get the feeling he wants somebody to read his mind and approach HIM with some way better deal. Crazy way to handle things.

    • It’s a really good question, Jeff. Generally the party refusing to come to an agreement has some alternate suggestion or proposal that describes what they do actually want. Melnyk appears to have just consistently said “no, not good enough” without defining his own bargaining position (or countering, to use the more common term).

      One possibility is that he thinks he can just continue to get better offers by refusing to counter, but anyone who has sold or purchased real estate knows this is unlikely, even if the asset you are selling is a one off.

      Another possibility, of course, is that he won’t commit to putting any money into an arena or cover operating costs for the same reason I don’t own an F40… that I can’t afford to.

      If at some point another entity will be paying for everything else but draws the line at covering the cost of cleaning the toilet in the (otherwise free) owner’s box and the clown in charge still says no… I would begin to wonder just how well capitalized that owner actually is.

      I believe people in Ottawa are wondering that exact thing these days, along with possibly wondering why a new arena would be built for an owner that everyone hates so much that they will probably not go to a new downtown arena in large numbers either.

      Maybe this is some sort of Donald Sterling fake distress sale attempt, I don’t know (Melnyk says he’ll never sell). But if so it’s unlikely to have a happy ending.

  2. I love the idea of “walk in traffic” for $100 events at high profile sports teams (at least for Ottawa). The team is not some hidden boutique random passersby are going to stumble upon.