The Canadian Air and Space Museum has been closed to make room for hockey rinks, news that came as a shock to its staff.

The museum — a repository of Canadian aviation history located in Downsview Park in Toronto's north end — was shuttered Tuesday because it was $120,000 behind in its rent, said chairman Ian McDougall.

It had begun generating more revenue and was in a position to begin making payments but the Crown corporation in charge of the site, Parc Downsview Park, wasn't interested.

"We expected that would be good news but that actually was bad news because their worry was that if we could do that … then we'd be able to stay here as of right for another six years," McDougall said.

"They didn't want that because they had another plan," he said, referring to a proposed four-pad hockey rink.

Founded in 1997, the museum houses a number of artifacts and planes including a replica of the Avro Arrow and a Second World War-era Lancaster bomber.

The news was distressing for veteran Phil Gray, who flew 16 missions and eight sorties in one of those bombers with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

"This is the way that freedom, that heritage is being ignored as far as I can see," he said.

David Soknacki, a member of the Parc Downsview Park board, said his organization would help pay to move and store the artifacts, planes and replicas.

He also said the board would be willing to host the museum in another area of the park.

With files from the Canadian Press