Maple Leaf Gardens deal means renewal

A $60-million partnership between Loblaw, Ryerson University and the federal government will bring Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens "back to life."

'We're bringing Maple Leaf Gardens back to life'

A $60-million partnership between Ryerson University, Loblaws and the federal government will bring Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto "back to life."

On Tuesday the federal government announced a $20-million contribution from its infrastructure fund to get construction started.

Another $20 million will come from Ryerson students, while the final $20 million will be raised in partnership with Loblaw Cos. Ltd.

"We're bringing Maple Leaf Gardens back to life," university president Sheldon Levy told a morning news conference announcing the renewal project.

The iconic building at the corner of Church and Carlton streets will become a multi-purpose facility. Part of the building will be a Loblaws supermarket, while other parts will be turned into an athletic centre for the university.

"This new centre will be a 150,000-square-foot space for Ryerson students and the public to use," said federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. "Once completed it will include an NHL-sized skating rink, a running track, basketball and volleyball courts, a fitness centre and more."

Student fee bulked up

Ryerson had confirmed in September it was speaking with Loblaw about a new athletic centre. Earlier this year, Ryerson students voted to pay an extra $126 each in annual athletic fees to help fund Ryerson's portion of the deal.

Loblaw, Canada's biggest grocery operator, purchased the building in 2004 and intended to turn it into a Superstore, a plan that drew protests from hockey fans and heritage buffs.

The building has been largely dormant since the NHL's Maple Leafs moved to the Air Canada Centre in 1999, but was recently used for CBC's Battle of the Blades figure skating competition.

Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1931, hosting its first Maple Leaf game on Nov. 12 that year, when the Maple Leafs lost 2-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Loblaw has said it will maintain the existing facades and rooflines, "with the majority of development taking place within the building's interior."

(With files from The Canadian Press)