Mayor lashes out at Melnyk as LeBreton deal falls through

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson lashed out at Eugene Melnyk Wednesday, telling reporters the Senators owner has been difficult to deal with throughout the now-collapsed LeBreton Flats redevelopment process.

Owner's flip-flopping a blow to team's credibility, Jim Watson said Wednesday

It hasn't been a great year for the Ottawa Senators, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told reporters Wednesday, due to an 'imperfect storm' of on-ice struggles, angry fans and now the LeBreton Flats setback. (CBC)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson lashed out at Eugene Melnyk Wednesday, telling reporters the Senators owner has been difficult to deal with throughout the now-collapsed LeBreton Flats redevelopment process.

Watson's comments came as the National Capital Commission confirmed mediation between RendezVous LeBreton partners Melnyk and John Ruddy had failed.

In a statement, Melnyk said his organization was "devastated" by the impasse, but would nevertheless continue to look for a new central location for its arena.

In Watson's most candid public comments to date, the mayor let his exasperation show.

"There's a lot of frustration dealing with Melnyk on a number of fronts. I don't think he's made this process easy," Watson said Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Watson and Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez said on Feb. 27 that the failure to revive the LeBreton Flats development is disappointing. 0:40

"I think his musings about not going downtown, [then] going downtown hurt his credibility and hurt the team's credibility," the mayor said. 

"We'd been putting in a lot of effort — the city, the NCC, the community — to get an arena at LeBreton because we'll have two LRT stations there, and then he just sort of off the top of his head muses we don't even have to go there."

In his statement of claim against Ruddy, Melnyk claimed Watson's chief of staff had responded with "threats and intimidation" to rumours that the Senators were considering pulling out of the LeBreton project during last fall's municipal election campaign.

Watson said Wednesday he hadn't spoken recently with either Melnyk or the NHL about the plan for a new downtown arena.

Watson, who sits as a non-voting member on the NCC's board, said groups that bid on the LeBreton redevelopment can always apply again, depending on how the NCC decides to proceed.

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