The dream of Ottawa senators to play in a new downtown arena is very much alive

For a long time a trio of Ottawa journalists sat so close behind Eugene Melnick in the NCC board room, we could have tapped him on the shoulder.

And when he heard the announcement of the winning bid, “Rendezvous Libreton! …, “The senator’s owner apparently stared in shock. He muttered something like,” I’m surprised, “before shaking hands with the man sitting next to him, then-Senator Cyril Lidar, the leader. The leader, a co-founder of the franchise, Nearby was the architect of the senator part of a bid to build a new arena on a low-lying, 21-hectare Leberton flat.

The year was 2016, steadily pre-COVID, and so journalists made a big splash around the principals involved in comfort – Melnick, his new business partner, John Rudy of Trinity Development and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

They all said the same thing – there would be a lot of work involved, including negotiating with the First Nations people (sitting on Libreton’s traditional Algonquin land) and removing the toxic waste that is costly to resolve, but senators could play in their new arena. 2021 or early 2022. The arena, of course, was an aspect of the multi-purpose, multi-billion-dollar project.

Six years of rapid progress, and the most striking development is not that the arena was not built, but that the whole concept, which was torn apart by controversy and lawsuits, could be revived this year, just in time. The senators once imagined naming their beautiful new building.

As Ottawa Citizen columnist Kelly Egan sarcastically points out, it is fitting that the NHL rink of the Libreton concept is being discussed just before Easter, “when thoughts go back to the resurrection of the dead.”

In fact, the agenda for Thursday’s National Capital Commission meeting includes a planned 30-minute update on LeBron’s development situation, which is expected to include a reference to a potential NHL arena. That in itself is significant. The plan was officially declared dead in late February 2019 – and the NCC has incurred আইনি 2 million in legal costs, salaries, benefits and fees for three-plus years of planning, negotiation and delay.

It’s no surprise that the NCC hasn’t washed its hands of the whole idea at the moment.

But here’s the thing. The NCC, well-known for its handiwork in these areas, has long wanted to do something “bold” and noble with this land, rather than developing it on a small scale, including condos, green space and a piecemeal trade.

Contrary to the proposal of rival Devco’s Candarel DLS Group, the first thing that attracted the NCC to the Rendezvous Libreton bid was that the senators provided a significant tenant for its arena plan – the NHL senators. They were a package deal – a famous tenant made up of millionaire players at a shiny new venue, to act as a draw for visitors and visitors to the area, including the LRT line near the South Shore. Ottawa River.

Not much has changed. Melnick’s death last week only increased the chances of a new yard downtown due to a new range of possibilities related to ownership and future business partnerships.

Melnick was duly honored for rescuing the franchise from bankruptcy in 2003 – at a very good price – he was not in the habit of befriending the Ottawa business community.

Join Sens and OSEG forces

During his 19 years as owner, Melnick had very public feuds with the mayor of the city of Ottawa and the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG, which includes John Rudy, Roger Greenberg, William Schenkman and John Pugh as partners – the respected Ottawa) with deep local roots. Corporate giant OSEG manages CFL Redblacks and OHL 67’s).

That’s it: One week after Melanick’s death, the senator and OSEG joined forces to submit a bid for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. It’s a whole new world, man. The Sense-OSEG partnership, which submitted a bid to Hockey Canada on Tuesday, was a last-second move from a proposed joint bid with Quebec City, a communication breakdown when a story about the senators’ five-game plan was leaked at La Presse. QC next season regular season games.

This is just one example of a strong land transfer in Ottawa.

It remains to be seen how ownership will take shape in the next few weeks, but senators are expected to submit an “expression of interest” by Feb. 28 to develop two parcels of land in LeBron before Melnick’s passing. Which was designed for a major event venue, such as an NHL Arena 7

That submission must be discussed on Thursday, as the NCC begins the procurement process, either with a shortlist of bidders, or with a single, individual bid. Surely the door is now open for OSEG or at least Rudy to be part of that process again.

As much as other potential bidders may have a good idea, we’re saying again, the senators have an ace in the hole – the NHL team as tenants.

Combine this with what we know:

• The NHL under Commissioner Gary Batman wants senators to upgrade to a more central location in a new building to replace a 26-year-old facility in Kanata.

Senators want to be the center of the city.

• No matter what form the new ownership takes, it will want to be suburban

As a source of intimate knowledge of the situation, he told me, “Any new owner would like the team at Labreton for long-term health and evaluation of the club.”

Even if Melnick’s daughters, Anna and Olivia, decide to respect their father’s wishes by leaving the party in their early 20’s, there is a strong chance that they will accept a significant minority partner; Their father showed no interest in doing anything.

New ideas, new capital and a new opportunity to build new connections between the hockey club, the NHL and the larger Ottawa-Gatineau community, add to the many possibilities that something special can happen.

“I can’t wait to build that stadium very quickly,” Melnick said in 2016.

Building it, “Quick” left the barn a few years ago.

It’s construction, duration, still a lot on the table.

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