Maple Leaf Garden Ryerson University Athletics Center

Seventy-years after its inception, Maple Leaf Garden, the former home of hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs, will be demolished inside and given a much-needed makeover. While The Leafs now play at the Air Canada Center, their old building will be the site of Ryerson University Sports and Recreation Center.

Progressive Ryerson students showed a lot of grit when they launched a fierce campaign to make the recreation center a reality. The university’s current athletics center has fallen victim to age. Furthermore, an increasing student body, and a large and diverse population of Torontonians render the facility as being too small to be effective. The new center will definitely be larger in scale, have state-of-the-art features, and will be more user-friendly.

During tough economic times, many students rally to protest tuition hikes. Ryerson students, however, did the unexpected and voted to have their athletic fees increased in order to contribute financially to the at $60 million project. The athletic fees will account for $20 million. An additional $20 million contribution comes from Ryerson’s partner Loblaws, the supermarket giant, and owner of Maple Leaf Gardens. Money raised also came from joint fund-raising campaigns organized by the partnership.

The Canadian government will also provide an additional $20 million from federal funds. The government made this investment through the Economic Action Plan, an initiative designed to stimulate the economy.

A talented team of developers and architects have drawn plans to add a second and third floor to Maple Leaf Gardens. Loblaws will develop their portion of the property to build an 85,000-square-foot supermarket superstore, and a Joe Fresh store, on the ground floor. The top two floors will be owned by Ryerson, and thereby comprise of the Ryerson sports complex.

Much of the action will be on the second floor where guests will have use of a basketball/volleyball court, a running track, recreation center, a gym, locker rooms, and food and beverage stands.

An NHL-sized ice rink enclosed by 2500 seats (in Ryerson’s blue and gold colors) will consume the third floor. The rink is so hi-tech that when not in use, the area can be converted and configured temporarily for other sporting events, writing exams, and for hosting special functions.

This amazing multi-purpose center is on target to open March 2011. The revitalization project is a victory, not only for Ryerson University and Loblaws, but also the entire Toronto community. Jobs will be created, and local residents will benefit tremendously from having access to the center. Some revenue from the new Ryerson Center will be used to update Ryerson’s existing athletics center.