Maple Leaf Square to be named after car manufacturer
Maple Leaf Square, that space between the Air Canada Centre and the eponymous condo tower directly across from the arena, is set to be renamed Ford Square as part of a major sponsorship deal with the car manufacturer (you can breathe a sigh of relief if you thought it had anything to do with our mayor). The move is classic Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, a company that's brilliant when it comes to capitalizing on branding opportunities when it comes to its prized hockey team.
The plan does, however, feel a bit shitty. The original name for the space, which is both a reference to the condo and the team (the former is named after the latter), at least bears a direct connection to its use: as a gathering place for Maple Leafs and Raptors fans. This isn't a case of a public space suddenly taking on corporate branding. On the contrary, this has always been a corporate space.
The arbitrariness of the new name, however, does rob the place of a certain appeal. Maple Leaf Square made sense. It was a place where fans could rally behind their team, and was named as such. Ford Square could just as well be Nissan or GM Square, and it would have no bearing on the enjoyment or use of the space.
Instead, what happens now is that the time and effort MLSE has spent to cultivate a new fan space is revealed as yet another monetization opportunity rather than a genuine attempt at fan appreciation and the fostering of team spirit. None of this is particularly surprising nor will it make the square a terrible place to visit, but a little something is lost in this rebranding, even if it's only the misplaced faith that the Leafs would ever do something for the love of the game.
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