Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the construction of a new Ryerson University athletic centre at the site of the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens exemplifies sound public investment in an infrastructure project.

"We’re standing inside a perfect example of how a strategic infrastructure investment can create jobs, can preserve our history and can meet the need for a new facility," Harper said Monday at the unveiling of a new ice rink in the upper levels of the Ryerson facility, known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

"Infrastructure money would have to be invested in projects that would leave a legacy for future generations. By partnering with Ryerson, we have built a new athletic centre that will benefit both students and the broader community."

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses reporters at the unveiling of the ice rink at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the site of the old Maple Leaf Gardens. (Steven D'Souza/CBC)

He was joined at the event at the rink, which has been under construction for several months, by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy.

"It is more than a restoration of a national landmark," said Levy. "It will be a treasure for our great city, for our wonderful province and for a great country."

The rink will be the home of the men's and women's Ryerson Rams hockey team.

The new athletics centre features a full-size skating rink, a court for basketball and volleyball, a fitness centre and a gym.

The Gardens closed in 1999, when the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs moved to the Air Canada Centre. The team had used the arena for almost 70 years. It was also a popular concert venue.

The multi-use Maple Leaf Gardens now houses a giant Loblaws grocery store, a Joe Fresh clothing outlet and LCBO, in addition to the Mattamy Athletic Centre.

The federal government contributed $20 million to refurbishment costs, with $20 million coming from Ryerson students, $15 million from Peter Gilgan, the founder and CEO of Mattamy Homes, as well as contributions from Loblaw.