Yesterday in Ottawa, the National Capital Commission (NCC) went public with concerns over “internal partnership issues” within RendezVous LeBreton Group, a venture between Capital Sports Management Inc. (CSMI), a group headed by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, and Trinity Development Group Inc., chaired by John Ruddy. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called out the group quite bluntly, saying that “they have to get their act together” before any potential development plan could be pushed forward surrounding the LeBreton Flats area near downtown Ottawa. The RendezVous group was trying to build a new arena for the Senators along with other commercial ventures in the space, but haven’t been able to put together a concrete development plan.
The NCC gave the group until early January to find some internal consistency, but that deadline does not seem relevant after today’s news. According to the Canadian Press, Melnyk and CSMI have started legal proceedings against Ruddy’s company and are “seeking damages arising out of a failed joint venture between Trinity and CSMI.” According to Shaamini Yogaretnam of the National Post, the lawsuit is claiming $700MM in damages and alleges that Trinity “misused confidential inside information about the LeBreton project and abused the trust (CSMI) had placed in them.”
While the news yesterday from the NCC put a huge wall in the way of a downtown arena, this lawsuit may have both parties walking away from each other entirely. The project seems almost certainly to be over, though no one has issued a statement to that exact effect as of yet. The Senators currently play outside the city center at an arena that is difficult for many fans to travel to, and have been attempting various means of moving closer to downtown for years.
Melnyk, who has been outspoken about the team’s poor financial situation in the past, is at the middle of this next unfortunate chapter in the Senators search for a new home. The owner has repeatedly claimed to not be interested in selling the franchise, even as immense pressure from the fan base builds after their plummet in recent seasons. Ottawa was in overtime of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals just a year an a half ago, but have seemingly found nothing but disaster at every turn since Chris Kunitz scored to send the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals.