NHL chief discusses Senators arena fallout

Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL ice hockey league, has expressed his disappointment at the fallout involving a planned new arena for the Ottawa Senators.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last month filed a lawsuit against business partner John Ruddy over the plans for land earmarked for a new arena. A new 18,000-seat arena has been planned as the centrepiece of a major redevelopment of the LeBreton Flats area of Ottawa.

In April 2016, Melnyk, together with his RendezVous LeBreton group, won the rights to build the arena as part of a C$4bn (£2.4bn/€2.7bn/$3bn) development in association with the Ruddy-led Trinity Developments.

The project has stalled since then and the NCC, which owns the land, recently voted in favour of potentially starting a new process to redevelop LeBreton Flats. Melnyk then filed a lawsuit against Ruddy, Trinity-involved companies and consultant Graham Bird.

Melnyk accused Ruddy of leveraging the redevelopment to raise the profile of a nearby apartment complex, and preventing locals from experiencing a new downtown arena.

The development leaves plans for a new Senators arena hanging by a thread. Bettman insisted he was not concerned by the saga but said, according to The Canadian Press news agency: “I would say I’m more disappointed with how this played out. But these are complicated matters.”

Bettman has previously stated that a new arena for the Senators is “vitally important” for the long-term future, stability and competitiveness of the team. 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.

Bettman added: “For a whole host of reasons it would be nice (to have the team move downtown). But Mr. Melnyk has said if he has to make Canadian Tire Centre work, he can do that.

“Let’s not draw any conclusions yet. This is a complicated situation, although in its original form, for a lot of reasons, some of which you’ve read in the complaint that’s been filed, the project as originally envisioned unfortunately isn’t viable.”

The Canadian Press reported that DevCore Group would be interested in taking over the redevelopment project if the current deal falls through.

Bettman’s made the comments yesterday (Monday) at the NHL’s board of governors meetings, which are continuing today. The NHL is expected to confirm later today that Seattle has been awarded an expansion franchise that would play at a redeveloped KeyArena.

Image: Jfvoll