File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk did not help his cause with some of his comments.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson disappointed with Senators owner in arena dispute

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has expressed disappointment in Senators owner Eugene Melnyk now that a proposed new downtown arena for the NHL team is in jeopardy.

Speaking after the National Capital Commission announced on Wednesday that no settlement could be reached on the LeBreton Flats file in mediation, Watson said Melnyk did not help the cause with some of his comments.

“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 new arena was part of the RendezVous LeBreton Group’s proposal for the land controlled by the NCC.

Judge Warren Winkler, the mediator retained by RendezVous, advised the NCC that no settlement could be reached prior to Thursday’s deadline.

Winkler had been presiding over mediation between partners in the RendezVous LeBreton Group: Melnyk, Trinity Development Group founder John Ruddy and GBA Development and Project Management president Graham Bird.

Melnyk’s Capital Sports Management Inc., filed a $700-million lawsuit against Ruddy and Bird in November. Ruddy — also a member of the ownership group of the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, the United Soccer League’s Ottawa Fury and the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s — responded with a $1-billion counterclaim.

While filing a statement of defence against Melnyk’s lawsuit, Bird got the three parties to agree to mediation in early January.

“We looked to mediation as our best opportunity to address and resolve these concerns,” Melnyk said in a statement. ”We participated in the process to the very end.

“We are devastated that our dream has been shattered. However, we will not let our vision die or allow our enthusiasm to be diminished by this ill-fated experience. … We are here for the long term and want a world class venue where Ottawans will live, work, play and enjoy the best the city has to offer. The people of Ottawa deserve this.”

The Senators lost 7-2 to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, Ottawa’s fifth defeat in a row.

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