scotiabank arena renovations

Leafs and Raptors hope renovated Scotiabank Arena can lure free agents to Toronto

Though the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors share a venue, they operate as wholly different players in their respective leagues.

The Leafs are the most valuable club in the NHL, while the Raptors are tenth on Forbes' 2024 projections list of the most valuable NBA franchises.

Since signing John Tavares as a free agent in the summer of 2018, Toronto has had plenty of big-name talents come through the NHL ranks. The Raptors, meanwhile, have historically struggled to attract any big-name free agents, opting to be built through trades and the draft.

But their success come postseason time has been perhaps the reverse of those expectations: Toronto's seen just one NHL second-round playoff series since 2004, while the Raptors were NBA champions in 2019 and have won nine playoff rounds over that same time frame.

These days, however, expectations remain limited at best for both franchises: the Leafs crashed out of the first round of the playoffs once again, while the Raptors went 25-57 and finished 12th in the Eastern Conference.

When Keith Pelley became CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in April, it was clear he was brought in to shake up the organization from the ground up.

And that includes the place that both teams call home.

"If we were just in the sports business, we probably wouldn't be having this type of aggressive, ambitious, forward-thinking," Pelley said at a media availability today at Scotiabank Arena to provide an update on the venue's ongoing multiyear renovations.

The venue transformation is branded as a "venue reimagination," taking place over a three-year span that includes upgrades throughout the concourse and the introduction of new premium clubs.

"I love the name… imagination is what you need right now in every type of experience that you're giving to the fans," Pelley said.

Before being made available to the press, Pelley held his latest meeting alongside three of the company's most senior executives: Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, Raptors president Masai Ujiri, and Toronto FC/Toronto Argonauts president Bill Manning.

"Team presidents gave their perspective in terms of what's important to them and their teams and in the business of their teams, as did the executive leadership team responsible for all aspects of delivering on MLSE's ambitions. [There was] lots of input across the senior level of the organization but also across each of the departments that ultimately has to use these spaces and operate in these spaces," Nick Eaves, MLSE chief venues & operations officer, said.

"I think everybody right now is buzzing with anticipation," Pelley added.

"The entire executive team has contributed to prioritizing how to approach this renovation. I think everybody obviously acknowledged that after 25 years, it's time to go and renovate and upgrade and bring in some different amenities," Eaves said.

Part of the renovation is aimed at improving the fan experience, but there's also a more tangible way the organization is hoping the new-look venue will help: in the free agent market.

"Players and their friends and their families are going to enjoy being in this space and like Rogers Centre did in their last phase, in terms of really renovating and upgrading their player amenities and player and family spaces," Eaves added. "That's certainly part of the ambition for the ongoing arena renovation, and it will be an advantage for our teams in terms of just being able to attract players and win in free agency. We're confident about that."

But while the renovation is listed as an overall cost of $350 million, Eaves insists there's "no correlation" between any ticket increases year-to-year, which would be more influenced by market projections than any internal renovations.

The second phase of renovations is expected to be ready for October when the Leafs and Raptors begin their 2024-2025 regular seasons.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau


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