Senators owner sues business partner over arena project

Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators, has filed a lawsuit against business partner John Ruddy over the plans for land earmarked for a new arena for the NHL ice hockey team.

A new 18,000-seat arena has been planned as the centrepiece of a major redevelopment of the LeBreton Flats area of Ottawa that has been vacant since the 1960s. In April 2016, Melnyk and his RendezVous LeBreton group won the rights to build the arena as part of a C$4bn (£2.36bn/€2.67bn/$3.03bn) development in association with the Ruddy-led Trinity Developments.

The project has failed to gather pace since then and last Thursday the NCC, which owns the land, voted unanimously in favour of potentially starting a new process to redevelop LeBreton Flats.

The saga took another turn on Friday as Melnyk filed a lawsuit against Ruddy, Trinity-involved companies and consultant Graham Bird. According to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, the lawsuit is worth C$700m, with Melnyk having accused Ruddy of leveraging the redevelopment to raise the profile of a nearby apartment complex.

Melnyk has also accused Ruddy and Trinity Developments of preventing locals from experiencing a new downtown arena. The Citizen noted that the development could “wipe out” the NCC’s plans to reassess the redevelopment. The NCC had been expected to make a decision on the matter in January.

In a statement reported by the Citizen, Ruddy said that he “strongly denies” the allegations, adding: “For over 30 years, I have sought to make a contribution to the communities in which Trinity operates, and in particular my hometown of Ottawa. I will always find ways to build Ottawa up and continue to make a contribution to our great city.”

The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Capital Sports Management Inc (CSMI), which is owned by Senators Sports and Entertainment, operator of the Senators.

Melnyk’s lawyer Robert Brush told the Citizen: “The claim sets out the concerns of CSMI and Mr Melnyk and really we have to wait and see how the process plays out. I can’t say to you now one way or the other where Mr Melnyk considers RendezVous. What we have to see is what response we get back and where things go from here.”

The Senators have played in the 18,600-seat Canadian Tire Centre since 1996, but its location in the suburb of Kanata has made it unpopular with fans. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated last year that a new downtown arena was “vitally important” to the long-term future, stability and competitiveness of the Senators.

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