Federal government antes up for Ryerson's Maple Leaf Gardens reno

"This is more than a great day. It is a decisive moment in Ryerson's history, a true game-changer for our students and the return of Maple Leaf Gardens to Toronto."

Ryerson president Sheldon Levy
The only question is how big this news is, honestly. Ryerson will be going from playing in a nondescript gym and an off-off-campus hockey arena to playing in the arena once described as Canada's most famous place of worship. It is worth noting the hockey rink will be on the second level, so the Rams won't actually skate on the same ice surface the Leafs did from 1931-99.

More details from the announcement:
This new, multi-functional athletic and recreational centre will supplement Ryerson University’s current 20-year-old, athletic facility that has not kept up with the growth of the university. The new centre at Maple Leaf Gardens will add nearly 150,000 square feet of sports and recreation space on the upper floors of the building. It will be accessible by both Ryerson's students and the local community. Plans for the facility will include:
  • An NHL-sized skating rink;
  • A four-lane, 200-metre running track;
  • Basketball and volleyball courts with telescoping bleachers with more than 1,200 seats
  • Studios, a fitness centre, and a high performance gym
  • Academic space and more.
There are a ton of details to be worked out:
"Starting tomorrow, Mr. Weston said, contractors will begin excavating a parking garage under the existing floor of the Gardens. The current rink surface, along with restaurant and player areas around it, become a 70,000 square-foot supermarket ...

" 'It’ll be a difficult and complex problem,' he said. 'That’s why we have to get the backhoes in here this afternoon.'

"Contractors will build a ceiling above the ice surface, bisecting the Gardens horizontally -- which becomes the floor of the new home of the Ryerson Rams hockey team: an NHL-sized skating rink. The 150,000 square foot Ryerson facility will also boast a four-lane, 200-metre running track, basketball and volleyball courts and a gym."
There is bound to be a lot of speculation (there already has been) and people are going to scream "corporate welfare" (they would prefer a historic building was left to rot?). Five thousand seats is also optimal for events such as a CIS basketball championship, or a Canada Basketball event.

Ryerson is a relatively young university and this is a great leap in its development. Meantime, it could be a golden opportunity to push CIS a little more into the sporting consciousness of the influential GTA media, where a lot of the movers and shakers are Rye grads.

Hockey in store for Gardens as Ryerson strikes deal; After $60-million renovation, university will share revered building with Loblaw, putting ice pad on top, grocery store on bottom (Elizabeth Church, Globe & Mail)
New Maple Leaf Gardens to house Ryerson and Loblaws (Sun Media)
Ottawa puts up to $20M into the Gardens (Kathleen Harris, Sun Media)
Maple Leaf Gardens to be remade into Ryerson athletics centre, Loblaws store (Julianna Cummins, National Post)
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  1. Maple Leafs Gardens is a historic old landmark in Toronto. So is Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Neither is really a park or a garden.

    The Gardens will be used for sport,particularly university sport.It will have a retail component anchored by a large Loblaws store.

    Lansdowne Live will be used by various sports groups including university sport. It will have a retail component anchored by---wait for it---a large Loblaws store.

    If the Gardens can qualify for receiving federal tax dollars, so can Lansdowne. It is time Ottawans pushed for getting their share.

  2. As the author of the above post, I want to make it clear that I am in favour the MLG project. As Neate points out, such a development should boost interest in CIS sport in Canada's largest population and media center.
    In the long run that should be good for CIS sport everywhere in Canada. I am pointing put some similarities between the MLG and Lansdowne projects. Both are worthy of federal and provincial support.

  3. As much as I am in favour of the benefits of a MLG/CIS bond, I will probably die a little inside once they convert it.

    The entire management of MLG as a building was a disaster, and the fact it has come to this 10 years later only leads me to smack my forehead. They should have turned it into a museum, or something similar like Montreal has done with the Forum. It was the only truly appropriate thing to do. Hopefully the Ryerson project can salvage what's left.

  4. Somehow, can we blame all this on Harold Ballard? The bastard has been dead 20 years and he's still falling in stuff and messing it up.

  5. Sounds pretty incredible. I'm a University of Western student and we just got a new gym/athletic center, but it doesn't compare to Maple Leaf Gardens. I think this is going to be awesome for Ryerson students, however I feel bad for the 4th year kids who had to endure a student fee to not be able to enjoy it.

    I also think that when this does open its going to be just ridiculous. Everyone will want to check it out. The grocery store doesn't help, but big ups to Galen Weston for purchasing it back in the day. At the end of the day, I fear that this will turn into nothing more but a corporate bombardment of advertising and profiteering.

  6. The forum? You would rather them fill it up with a movie theatre than a new ice rink? The forum is not even recognizable as a hockey arena. There is a giant movie theatre inside of it, where it is dark and you cannot even begin to see that it was at one time a rink. I agree there are ways to preserve a rink, but the Montreal Forum is one of the worst examples.