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March 9, 2010

Play called for renos at Maple Leaf Gardens


Getting the makeover at Maple Leaf Gardens just right might not be as difficult as winning the Stanley Cup, but neither is it going to be easy. Built in 1931, the iconic Toronto building is more than a place. It’s an authentic link to the past. The challenge, then, is to reinvent the downtown property – creating a new ice surface, for instance, two levels above the street – for new generations of users while remaining true to the building’s roots. A unique set of partners is digging deep to do just that.

When completed in 2011, the building will reopen as the Ryerson University Sports and Recreation Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens, with a rink and athletic centre for the downtown campus and a 70,000-square-foot supermarket for Loblaw Cos. Ltd.

Each partner will own its portion of the building – making the university and the private business like linemates on a new kind of team. (Ryerson’s portion will mainly be for students, but there are plans to also make it accessible to the community.) Ottawa is contributing $20-million to the project through its infrastructure stimulus fund, Ryerson will raise $20-million from student fees, and the final $20-million will be raised by Ryerson and Loblaw through a joint fund-raising campaign, including a $5-million contribution from the grocery giant.

A basement will be dug below the original building for a new level of parking and then a ground-floor supermarket and a second-floor Joe Fresh store will be built. Meanwhile, Ryerson last week chose sports and entertainment facility leaders BBB Architects of Toronto to refashion the sporting part of the Gardens. BBB is working on a $100-million renovation of Madison Square Garden in New York, where the ice rink slab is five floors above 8th Avenue.

The Globe and Mail