Iconic Maple Leaf Gardens in Downtown Toronto to be Renovated
After nearly a decade of sitting vacant this major landmark in downtown Toronto has be given new life. Investors are going to rejuvenate this complex and bring in businesses and restore glory to his landmark.
This new partnership between the Canadian federal government, Ryerson University and food giant Loblaws have come together in a $60-million dollar deal to revitalize the vacant Maple Leaf Gardens sports and entertainment complex in downtown Toronto.
This will be a multi-purpose facility for a variety of uses for both Ryerson University students and the public to use such as an athletic center for the university consisting of some 150,000 square feet, as well as room for hosting other public events. A large portion of this building will become a Loblaws Superstore as well. This is also greeted with appreciation.
The renovation set to begin immediately should be completed by 2011 and will include a running track, basketball and volleyball courts, and much more. In the past, the entertainment complex has hosted many sporting events such as professional boxing, concerts, and political party conventions. Concerts were held here including an appearance by Elvis Presley and also hosted performances by The Beatles in the 1950s and 1960s. Noted is that Maple Leaf Gardens was the only venue to have hosted The Beatles in all three of their North American concert tours.
Not to mention this was home to the Maple Leaf Hockey franchise and the game of professional hockey itself, the centre also gave witness to a speech on March 3, 1932 by Winston Churchill. Prime Ministers William Lyon Mackenzie King and Pierre Elliot Trudeau held election rallies here. The building is steeped in history.
It was heartbreaking to Leafs fans when the final game was played here on Feb. 13th, 1999 to record attendance (and the Maple Leafs lost the game to rival team Chicago Blackhawks) so it was doubly painful when the stadium purchaser Loblaws had announced intentions back in 2004 to convert this iconic landmark entirely into a Superstore with no provision for a hockey rink.
Now, it seems as if it is the best of all outcomes has come to us. Everybody is going to get something they want. A Superstore, an athletic centre, convention space, memorabilia museum and hockey and other sports arena and so much more.
Maple Leaf Gardens
The supermarket giant Loblaws had purchased this vacant multi-purpose center back in 2004 and planned to convert the vacant building in its entirety into their largest Superstore location. This was an announcement and proposal that drew myriads of outraged cries from hockey fans and equal disdain from heritage and site preservation interests alike.
But it was announced that the familiar landmark in the Garden District of downtown Toronto will among all these new proposed changes also retain its familiar exterior with most of the improvements taking place inside the building.
Former Home to the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Franchise
Maple Leaf Gardens: Host to many Sporting Events over the Years
Image via Wikipedia
Host to many sporting events over its nearly 68 years of use, Maple Leaf Gardens notably hosted on March 29th, 1966 the boxing match between boxing legends Muhammad Ali and George Chuvalo. Noted that George Chuvalo was never knocked down over the course of 93 professional fights between the years of 1956 through 1979 only to be defeated twice in matches against Champion Muhammad Ali.
Ali’s famous quote came after this match when he stated of Chuvalo “He’s the toughest guy I ever fought.” Although Chuvalo went all 12 rounds against Ali, his opponent was declared winner by decision. Boxing fans remember the two matches between these boxing legends quite well. The one in March, 1966 and Chuvalo’s final match with Muhammad Ali in 1972, both which were held at Maple Leaf Gardens.
This multi-use complex was an integral part of the lives of sports fans in Ontario and especially here in Toronto. It is quite understandable the outcry they had for the intended 2004 conversion entirely to a retail Superstore food mart. The news today of the intended modified conversion is meeting with 100% approval in straw polls being taken by public media; everyone loves the announced changes.
Image via Wikipedia
Even my hockey-resistant mind recognizes the uniforms of the home team. Built not just for hockey, this amazing centre had something for everyone. It is going to once again be the multi-use entertainment complex it was meant to be. It is difficult to tell others the joy that Torontonians feel over today’s announcement. A home base for the multitude of fans from all genre to attend their favorite pastimes be it any type of professional sports, cultural art, or concerts. This complex will truly once again have it all!
Maple Leaf Gardens is one of the most recognized buildings in downtown Toronto. Fans of the former complex did not want this building converted into something entirely commercial retail. They were clinging to its glorious past with great passion.
We are fortunate that Loblaws listened to the public outpouring of disdain for the proposed 2004 conversion, and they waited and sought another recourse. This has been met. Fans of the centre are also grateful that the building’s exterior will not be altered greatly. It is such a recognizable landmark that any changes would be unwelcome.
Even some of the old banners that used to be shown street-side will be again displayed. It will be the good ol’ days again!
And Hockey Will Be Played Here Again
Unfortunately for fans of the Maple Leaf Gardens there were dark incidents of sex scandals that took place here over years between the late 70s and for nearly a decade that involved a shockingly large number of employees and managers. Crimes committed against young children, teenagers. Appalling sex crimes. It is part of the history of this place. Horrific and saddening, but it happened. That is a matter for legal authorities and relegated to historical record.
But for most of the many thousands upon thousands of fans this place shall always be a virtual shrine to hockey, athleticism, sports, recreation and entertainment. A place so very rich in history and memories. Something they were proud of once and can be proud of once again. Sports and entertainment fans, rejoice!