With the ink drying on the deal between Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Ryerson University to share a rejigged Maple Leaf Gardens, it’s great to see something finally being done to the place. Standing virtually empty since the Toronto Rock held their final training camp in 2001, Loblaws only recently started unlocking the arena for Doors Open, a Gay and Lesbian Travel Association trade show, and for the filming of Cinderella Man, Battle of the Blades, and Flashpoint.
Ryerson’s plans dull the edges of years of controversy, bringing a new rink, running track, and basketball courts to new upper floors of the 1931 Art Deco monolith, while the much-maligned Loblaws is to be installed at street level. Some believe that a grocery megastore is an affront to the building’s heritage, while others are just happy to see it put to use. Plus, the feds are kicking in a third of that sixty-million-dollar renovation cost, which means that taxpayers are partially funding what could be seen as a private corporate project. The new Gardens are slated to open in 2011, but we suspect that the beefs will continue long after that.