Development of Maple Leaf Gardens has been in limbo for several years, but it finally looks like things are about to get moving. The 75-year old building, having been vacated by the friendly neighbourhood hockey club in 1999, was purchased by Loblaws in 2004.
According to a report in yesterday’s Star, the company is ready to begin a cleanup of the Gardens starting this summer, after which they will begin transforming the interior into one of them Real Canadian Superstores. Seriously, that’s what they’re actually called. Construction time is estimated to take just under two years. However, as a recent CTV News report showed, it certainly appeared as if the prior tenants had left without bothering to clean up. Although the Toronto Rock lacrosse team used the Gardens for a couple years after the Leafs moved on, the building was most recently used for in the films Cinderella Man and, erm, Death to Smoochy. So it comes as quite a shock to see the tattered state the building is in, with oodles of memorabilia and thousands of seats in disarray.
Former Toronto mayor David Crombie, acting as a spokesperson for Loblaws (and also president of the Canadian Urban Institute), has been involved for several years with the redevelopment of the Gardens. According to Crombie, there will be efforts to ensure that the history of the Gardens will be preserved in the form of a museum within the building. Urban affairs writer John Lorinc, in an op-ed piece in the Star, suggested something along the lines of London’s Tate Modern, but it doesn’t look likely. Hopefully Loblaws will soon formally announce some specific details on what the future holds in store for the former Carlton Street Cashbox. But as of this morning, their name’s on the door.
The Montreal Forum now houses a 22-screen AMC cinema, with centre ice and rows of old seats preserved.
Photos by spotmaticfanatic from the Torontoist Flickr Pool and Marc Lostracco.