Wednesday, October 26, 2016Clear 2°C

What ever happened to the Jarvis Street roller rink?

Posted by Chris Bateman / March 30, 2013

toronto mutual street arenaIn 1931, when the Maple Leafs fluttered out of the Mutual Street Arena, the first home of the team since the Toronto St. Patricks days, the 7,500-seater stadium west of Jarvis Street was in trouble. Without the hockey revenues that were essential to its business, the city-owned property was destined to struggle.

It was under the new ownership of Ted Dickson that after years of uncertainty the Arena Gardens (to use its original name) found its footing and became a venue for concerts, exhibitions, sports, and, most memorably, roller skating. The venue became known as The Terrace in 1962 and grew into a much-loved community hub.

When it was demolished in 1989, the wheels were already in motion to build a replacement. So far it hasn't happened, but that doesn't mean nothing was constructed. Today, the shell of a planned roller rink - located on a Toronto Community Housing property - still needs filling.

toronto hanlan's skatingIf a Toronto Star report is anything to go by, Toronto's roller-skating palace wasn't much prized for its aesthetics at the end of the 1980s. "Few people have asked the [Toronto Preservation Board] to save the Terrace so far. And city councillors want more housing than a questionable landmark," it reported as council gave final approval to remove the hockey shrine and build new apartments.

More than 1,000 people turned out to take the final skate at the Mutual Street Arena. Lovers who had met at the building in the 1930s at a dance were there to say their goodbyes. Outside, a small crowd of protesters voiced their concerns to local councillor Jack Layton, who promised their petition would make it to city hall. It did, but the city was powerless to stop the project that would leave Toronto without an indoor skating facility.

Various replacements were proposed at a time when the city budget was extremely stretched, including a half-hearted proposal to drain the reflecting pool in Nathan Phillips Square and turn it into an outdoor skating bowl in summer. The city would later get the hang of organizing skating outside city hall.

toronto mutual street arenaIn an interesting parallel with the Scotia Plaza development, a group of teens under the guidance of Jack Layton persuaded the developer Centara to contribute $2 million to building a new roller rink, lest they chain themselves to bulldozers. The company also agreed to donate the Terrace sign, rental skates, and sound system from the arena to the new project.

In exchange, Centara was able to buy the protester's silence and boost the density of their development to 50% above what was zoned. Several years earlier, down on King Street, Layton and a group of other councillors had agreed to end a vocal protest against Scotia Plaza in exchange for a $2 million donation from developer Campeau Corp. to a housing co-op.

toronto mutual street arenaEven with a cut of the development funds the project was by no means a sure thing. The remaining $3 million required to add the rink to the a new Jarvis Street housing complex was hard to extract from city council. Mayor Art Eggleton and budget chief Barbara Hall favored asking Metro for the cash even though the project was also being funded by the province.

In the end, it would take another protest - a "skate-in" on Mutual Street - for council to approve adding the rink to the ground floor of a new subsidized housing project just north of Jarvis and Dundas. Success, or so they thought.

Belt-tightening measures under a newly-elected city council in 1992 nixed most the funds for the building. Instead of a ready-to-use rink, skaters would get an empty shell fitted out with only basic heating. The space would then be leased to the highest bidder. A city-run facility would be too likely to lose money, thought new budget committee chair Tom Jakobek.

By now Jack Layton had moved on after his failed mayoral bid and his vacated seat was taken over by Kyle Rae.

toronto roller skating"It was pure political payback," Rae recalls of the decision to effectively kill the rink. "This happens a lot on councils, when someone leaves people who were upset with things unravel them. I feel the same way about Jarvis Street - the bicycle lane ... I put in 10 years of work the community and what do they do? They tear it out."

The property has since been taken over by Toronto Community Housing but the shell remains. Various groups have submitted plans to use the space - though none of them have been a roller rink - but all have balked at the cost of bringing the skeleton up to code.

Rae supported a boxing academy associated with Lennox Lewis but the backers bailed out over costs. A basketball arena was also scrapped for the same reasons. In 2007, the Academy of Performing Arts made a proposal that, in keeping with the theme, also fell by the wayside.

toronto skating rinkMost recently, a company approached TCH about installing a storage locker facility in the room but were unable to secure the necessary permits. In its decades-long existence, its only use has been as a backdrop for a handful of movies and television shows.

"Leasing or selling the space is complex because the space is part of a large housing co-operative," says Ian McConachie from TCH. "We have posted "For Lease" signs at 261 Jarvis St. and hope to offer a lease for a use that complies with zoning."

Rae calls the 20-year lack of progress "a travesty" for the local community. With no agreement on the horizon, it looks unlikely Toronto will ever get the promised replacement for the Mutual Street Arena.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: City of Toronto Archives and Toronto Star.



Christopher King / March 30, 2013 at 09:10 am
With Rob's No Frills in St Jamestown closing up shop in June of this year, to be replaced with a Sobey's eventually, this site could easily be used for Rob to set up shop again.
W. K. Lis / March 30, 2013 at 09:59 am
Ryerson University controls Maple Leaf Gardens, see;ATCLID=204919872 for more information. However, public access is limited through membership.
steve / March 30, 2013 at 11:01 am
I do recall hearing the major drawback to the Jarvis Street space not becoming a roller rink is a liquor license cannot be had. It is too costly to run without a license.
Alex replying to a comment from Christopher King / March 30, 2013 at 02:21 pm
I'm interested to see a link or an article confirming this info. Any details to share?
neville / March 30, 2013 at 08:42 pm
Which block of Mutual St did The Terrace occupy? Was it the block between Dundas and Shuter where the park is now? Or was it S of Shuter?
Sean replying to a comment from neville / March 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm
It was where the park/co-op housing is located now.
Billy / April 1, 2013 at 12:05 am
More Layton dirt. But no... We can't say anything bad about him, eh?
Michael McTague / June 12, 2013 at 02:37 pm
Hi there I would love to talk to someone about what happened to the rink the big thing was the rink never got the two million that was given to the rink for the build I would like to see what the people of Toronto got for the two million because I am trying to get city hall look at build this city a rink it would help family and youth I have sent city hall a plan even a plan for the building on Jarvis street
Reg Dunning / August 6, 2013 at 06:31 pm
I used to skate at the Terrace, as did all the other kids from Toronto suburbs.... East York kids were there every night, and all weekends...... many many good memories that today's kids don't even have a clue about! AND we weren't all overweight and pasty skinned with big eyes from hugging cellphones and computers..... we had a social life with other real live human kids.
michele / August 30, 2013 at 05:21 pm
I would love to see another roller rink built! It's been getting worse and worse over the years as far as lack of things for kids to do as a cheap extra-ciricular activity. The exercise is so desperatley needed as well as that important face to face socializing - NOT JUST TEXTING! My sisters and I have such amazing memories of roller skating EVERY weekend, it was something you just couldn't wait to do!! We skated at The Terrace, Skate Country and Roller World, as well as any other place we could get to! We need to bring it back!!
Eddie / September 23, 2013 at 01:54 am
Should we sign a petition (all of us) asking the City of Toronto administration to build a roller skating indoor facility to promote healthy life style and social cohesion in Toronto? Who will support this initiative?
s / November 29, 2013 at 11:48 am
s / November 29, 2013 at 11:48 am
s / November 29, 2013 at 11:48 am
s / November 29, 2013 at 11:48 am
DianeDi / April 15, 2014 at 08:31 pm
I am trying to locate any archive photos of The Terrace Roller Rink - INSIDE. My parents met there and of course cried there when it closed. I remember going roller skating with my brother and parents on Sundays for many years. I would love to find an old photograph to show my children what once was.

Anyone know of any good links to help me?
Bruce Holmes / April 26, 2014 at 11:26 pm
Being raised in Regent Park from 1962 I learned to roller skate at the Terrace ,met and fell in love with sooo many wonderful ladies {finally marrying } and moving to Cambridge , settling down and raising two wonderful children . My first "paying " job was as a "cruiser " at the rink. Lost a big piece of my life when they tore that place down. Would love to hear from anyone who may have photos or film of skating at the Terrace {I no longer have any at all}. Yeah I still have my red shirt and my whistle AND MY SKATES
Bruce Holmes replying to a comment from DianeDi / April 26, 2014 at 11:37 pm
Hi Diane. I skated at the Terrace every opportunity I had {sometimes 5&6 times a week}from 1962 until 1985 . Jimmy Craig {the manager at the time} hired me as a cruiser in 1972 and I worked there until 1981 when I married my sweetheart who I met by picking her up off of the floor {many times lol}. Seems she somehow "lost her balance" every time she skated past me .
I am also trying to find anyone with photos or old home movies and or ideas where I can find some of those old memories. Please let me know if you happen across any , please. Thank you . Bruce { aka , bruciebaby to the ladies at the rink }
Bob / July 8, 2014 at 07:31 pm

Would love to see some pictures inside the terrace.I waltzed all the moonlight skate in the center of the rink.It was great fun.The Last Waltz great song.Theme from a summer place another great song. I skated at the Terrace for 20 years and I sure miss it. / July 11, 2014 at 03:32 pm
When you use direct mail. For more easy tips and wise ideas about cost
effective and impressive print materials visit: Houston direct
mailing company, it has a persuasive headline on it.
You mayy need to do a market research before creating your mailing
psychotherapy finances list. General Motors, AT&T, Ford, Citigroup, Wal-Mart, and a handful of other corporations spent over
$1billion on advertising in 2011.
paul / September 15, 2014 at 09:11 am
Great story. But like a lot of of people writing about toronto, they are new or dont know the geography of the city well, and what is there now.

West side of mutual between Dundas and Shuter.
I know the area after going downtown as a teen, and came aware after knowing someone at Ryerson.

I remember seeing the boarding up and the Signs for Cathedral Condos but never knew what was there before and learned only a few years go

Anywho...the economy tanked in 1989 and the depression of 89-93 happened and the land was given for co op housing. But it seems like it was boarded uo for a ling time.

There might actually be 2-3 different co op on the site. And the first didn't finish building until 1995 I think.

so on the site is a the first co which I signed to be on the list for an apartment while going to ryerson but cant remember its name.

I know one is called Margret Lawrence and another is actually called the Terrace coop.. After 2000 a condo was built on the south area of these buildings, attached I think and a stand alone condo was built about 5 years ago south of the first condo. The extra land facing mutual st was turned into a park and its called Arena park I think.
truesville / November 6, 2014 at 09:19 pm
While I was looking up any performance dates of Hank Williams Sr in Canada, I found that he played this arena, called the Mutual Street Arena on October 27th 1949. I found this here at the Hank Williams Timeline and at Back to the Sugarcamp blog under Eric Wilson musician who was at the concert
Deborah Crawford / January 17, 2015 at 06:30 pm
The Terrace was like a home away from home. Lived in the Carlton-Parliament St area. I walked down to the Terrace several times a week from about 1967 to when it closed in 1989. Was there for the last skate. After several years of skating...sure had my falls...but at the closing was knocked down from behind on a waltz. Did break my write.but would not go to St. Mikes Hospital until they closed the doors for the last time. That's how much skating meant to me.
Still I miss skating and when I here a song from one of the 'couples' skate or from a takes me right back....
Just recently took 2 of my sons and their girls to the open skate pad in Hamilton
Deborah Crawford / January 17, 2015 at 07:02 pm
The Terrace was like a home away from home. Lived in the Carlton-Parliament St area. I walked down to the Terrace several times a week from about 1967 to when it closed in 1989. Was there for the last skate. After several years of skating...sure had my falls...but at the closing was knocked down from behind on a waltz. Did break my write.but would not go to St. Mikes Hospital until they closed the doors for the last time. That's how much skating meant to me.
Still I miss skating and when I here a song from one of the 'couples' skate or from a takes me right back....
Just recently took 2 of my sons and their girls to the open skate pad in Hamilton
Deborah / January 17, 2015 at 07:11 pm
To further my comment.....would have loved to have my kids experience "The Terrace". People have been asking for footage of the Terrace. I do have a VSH of skating in the later year. Theres not many skating and it mostly following me. It's not the best...but will see what I can do to clear it up and transfer to a DVD. Shall post here when I've done so.
Donna / March 20, 2015 at 07:11 pm
I took roller skating lessons at the Mutual Arena in the early 50s when I was a kid. They had to buy smaller skates for me.

I remember skating in the recital dressed as a mouse. They wrapped the tail around my shoulders so I wouldn't trip over it. Unfortunately, my mother never got any photos of me dressed for the show.

I remember going back to skate with friends for years. It's a shame it was closed down. It was great fun and terrific exercise.
Sara OzCan / April 18, 2015 at 11:42 pm
Now that my kids are growing up in Newmarket, they need no exercise. I would hate for them to scrape their knees and cry.
Carol Owen replying to a comment from Bruce Holmes / April 23, 2015 at 03:16 pm
Hi Bruce: I also skated at The Terrace in the same years. My best friend (Sharon Patenaude) who eventually became my step sister - became Jim Craik's wife. It was a time in our lives when many friends were starting to go to night clubs - ours became The Terrace. We were there every night and had a great group of friends. Harold Chapman comes to mind. I was also a member of the somewhat short lived Terracettes - lots of fun, laughs, drama - and wonderful young love. My name in those days was Carol Fair
Maureen Delaney / August 30, 2015 at 09:55 am
Does anyone remember the skating arena at Broadview and Danforth in the 1950/60's.Thanks
Maureen Delaney / August 30, 2015 at 09:56 am
does anyone remember the skating arena at Broadview and Danforth in Toronto in the 1950's? Thanks...
Rick Davis replying to a comment from Maureen Delaney / January 30, 2016 at 10:17 am
We ran the Terrace SKATEBOARD park. On the abandoned Ice skating area in 1988 every Saturday Tony Hawk dropped into the mini chin ramps!
Cheryl Dawn / March 11, 2016 at 10:19 am
I was a young teen going to the Terrace for my first roller skating experience. I loved it! Thankful for the happy times there, but sure wish it was still open.
Other Cities: Montreal