OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators‘ potential move to a downtown arena is a small step closer to becoming reality after the National Capital Commission announced Thursday it had reached an agreement in principle with the RendezVous LeBreton group.
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and John Ruddy of Trinity Developments are the principal parties behind RendezVous LeBreton.
RendezVous won negotiating rights in April 2016 following a competitive process to redevelop the area known as LeBreton Flats. Seven months later, formal negotiations between the two parties began. Thursday’s announcement is the culmination of more than 40 meetings between the two sides.
"This is a great next step of many future steps, but we’re very excited to transform the project for the city," Ruddy said following the NCC’s public meeting of the board of directors. "I look forward to the next steps and dealing with the city for entitlements and our ongoing discussions with the city."
Melnyk was also at the announcement, but did not speak with media. He released a statement saying he was "thrilled to be one step closer to bringing Ottawa Senators fans a more enjoyable fan experience."
"Though there are still many hurdles to overcome, today we have moved closer to realizing a vision for LeBreton Flats — creating a place of pride for Ottawa residents, the Ottawa Senators hockey team, and visitors to the national capital region," the statement read.
The Senators currently play at Canadian Tire Centre in the suburb of Kanata, roughly 30 kilometres from Ottawa’s downtown core.
NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson called the agreement a "significant step," that will lead to a master development agreement to be negotiated over the next 12 to 18 months. The start of construction is slated for mid-year in 2019.
Part of the current agreement includes the two parties agreeing on a fair market value for the land, considered prime real estate located just minutes from Parliament Hill. Costs were not revealed during the meeting.
Initially the project was expected to be developed in three phases, but Thursday’s announcement said it would be done in two. The first will include the Sens’ new rink, an accessible sports centre and public space.
Ruddy, who was instrumental in the redevelopment of Lansdowne, where the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks play, believes this project will be on target.
"I think it’s a different situation here," said Ruddy. "There’s a kind of unanimous feel, at least what we’re getting from the major stakeholders, is that they want to move this forward."
Once the master development agreement is approved the NCC will retain ownership of 1.6 hectares of future green space for public use and will sell the remaining 19.8 hectares to the RendezVous LeBreton Group.
The RendezVous LeBreton group will be tasked with cleaning up of the contaminated soil on LeBreton Flats, which once housed a rail yard and had several industrial uses.
The cost to clean the site is expected to be in excess of $30 million. The entire cost will be RendezVous LeBreton’s responsibility, but will then be deducted from the cost to purchase the land.
A significant next phase will also include working with the city for municipal approval.