Maple Leaf Gardens

The transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens

When Maple Leaf Gardens was shuttered in 1999, the fate of the arena was as contentious a topic as you could care to discuss in Toronto circles. What was a fitting way to preserve the Original Six ice rink? What could be done to avoid the rise of condos on Carlton Street? When news broke in 2004 that Loblaws was interested in turning the building into a grocery store, the preservationists prepared for battle.

It would be easy to say that this was a fight they lost given the main floor tenant of the former arena, but that's not the impression I got at yesterday's unveiling of the rink at the new Ryerson Athletic Centre. The public pressure to do something fitting with the building was so profound that a novel partnership was struck between Ryerson and Loblaws in 2009, which ultimately ensured that the Gardens would remain an arena in some capacity.

No, it's not the the grand public space it used to be — not by a long shot — but rather than existing solely as a shrine to the past, the new MLG is a bustling place that's injected loads of energy into what was once a rather tired stretch of Carlton. That'll only increase as Ryerson students return to class this fall and start using the facilities in earnest.

Could there be more gestures to the building's former function incorporated into the redesign. Yes, particularly at the grocery store below, but the features that do remain — the cathedral-like roof, the balcony seating, and the wonderful marquee, to name only the most obvious — ensure that accusations of facadism will be few and far between.

This isn't settling — it's what revitalization looks like.

TIMELINE

2008

Maple Leaf Gardens

October (via Salsavaders)

2009

Maple Leaf Gardens

December (via Big Blue Toe Productions)

2010

Maple Leaf Gardens

January (via Ryerson and Loblaw Companies Limited)

Maple Leaf Gardens

August (via Loozrboy)

Maple Leaf Gardens

October (via Ryerson)

Maple Leaf Gardens

Ditto

2011

Maple Leaf Gardens

January (via Tom Ryaboi)

Maple Leaf Gardens

July (via landen alger is real)

Maple Leaf Gardens

Ditto

Maple Leaf Gardens

November (via the author)

Maple Leaf Gardens

Ditto

Maple Leaf Gardens

Ditto

2012

Maple Leaf Gardens

March (via Ryerson)

Today

Maple Leaf GardensMaple Leaf GardensMaple Leaf GardensMaple Leaf GardensMaple Leaf GardensMaple Leaf Gardens

QUICK FACTS

  • Project cost: $60 million
  • The Athletic Centre spans almost 150,000 square feet and includes:
  • 2600 seat ice rink
  • 200 metre running track
  • Basketball and volleyball courts
  • Fitness Centre
  • Food concessions
Photos of yesterday's unveiling by Tom Ryaboi

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