OTTAWA — Mark Borowiecki hopes Ottawa will one day have a downtown arena.
As an Ottawa native and a defenceman for the NHL’s Senators, he said a new facility in the city’s core would be a boon for its citizens.
But on Thursday morning, he was left wondering what lies ahead after the National Capital Commission moved to terminate a development deal that would have included a new NHL rink a short distance from Parliament Hill.
“As someone who grew up here, plays here now and likely will be living here in the future, I think a rink downtown is something that the city needs eventually,” Borowiecki said. “I’m not at the negotiating table, that’s not for me to decide or understand, but as someone who plans to stay here for a long time as a resident, it would be nice for my wife and I to be able to bring our kids downtown for a game one time.
“At this point, it is what it is and hopefully things get worked out.”
There was a sense of excitement in the city back in April 2016 when the NCC selected a bid from the RendezVous LeBreton group, which included Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, to redevelop the prime land near the downtown core known as LeBreton Flats. Part of the development plans included a new arena.
More than two years later, a downtown arena in the foreseeable future seems unlikely. The NCC announced Wednesday that it is seeking to terminate the agreement with RendezVous, effective 30 days from initial notice.
The news was hardly a surprise as Melnyk and business partner John Ruddy had sued each other in recent days over struggles within the RendezVous consortium.
The Senators released a brief statement Wednesday expressing disappointment at the NCC’s decision.
“For over a year, we have tried to resolve our concerns about the flaws in the economic model for the redevelopment, both within the context of our private negotiations with the NCC and then publicly since November 22, 2018.”
On Thursday, Melnyk held his annual Skate for Kids, which provided skates and helmets for 100 local children.
Melnyk was not available for comment, but the recent developments were cause for concern.
“There’s definitely some uncertainty right now,” Borowiecki said. “I get it. It’s tough probably for the city and this community. You probably look at a place like Edmonton, they got a beautiful new rink downtown, and Detroit just got one.
“I think it would be nice to have a part of that too, but it really is beyond me the negotiating side of things. I wasn’t following it super closely. I was excited about the new rink and when I heard the news it was disappointing for sure, but obviously there’s more to the story.”
Cody Ceci, who grew up in Ottawa’s east end, said a downtown arena would have facilitated things for friends and family who live clear across the city from the Canadian Tire Centre — the Senators’ current home in Kanata.
He added recent developments were also disappointing for players who don’t hail from the nation’s capital.
“Some guys want it down there because they live down that way and it would make for an easier commute,” Ceci said. “It would have been fun. They could go to different restaurants and stuff.
“A downtown arena would make it easier for a lot of people since they could go right from work instead of getting in their car and driving to the west end. I know people are trying to move downtown, but not every team has a downtown rink.”
NOTES: The Senators will get some help on the ice Friday as they take on the New Jersey Devils as centre Matt Duchene is set to return after missing the last six games. Defenceman Dylan DeMelo also could return to lineup.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press