By Caroline Yoshida-Butryn
A proposed courthouse is standing in the way of Ryerson’s plan to build a hockey arena in the parking lot of the Sears building, Toronto City Councillor Kyle Rae said.
President Sheldon Levy and acting athletics director Jean Kennedy are looking to raise a 15-storey building with a rink, basketball courts and classrooms.
The provincial government currently owns the Sears property and Ryerson has been vying to purchase it.
However, Rae, the city councillor for the Ryerson area, says he’s heard the government is talking about putting courts on the site.
“I talked to a member of the government today and there’s no clear use yet,” he said.
“I’ve heard rumours that courts may be put there. It’s not clear what the use will be.”
Ryerson’s MPP, George Smitherman, said that he’s dedicated to helping Ryerson with its space issues, but he’s been putting off talks with Levy over the site until after a new provincial cabinet is named.
“As plans might emerge, I’m going to make sure [the Ontario government] is aware that Ryerson has pronounced space problems,” he said.
Money might also prove to be a hitch to Ryerson’s plans.
In order to fund a new facility, Ryerson would have to poll students on whether they’re willing to pay higher fees for a new athletics facility, said Levy.
“Our ancillary fee for athletics at the university is about half of other universities, so the students quite properly pay for what they get,” he says. “And they don’t get a heck of a lot.”
However, at least one local business owner is willing to accommodate the building if it gets off the ground.
Spiro Boulieris, who owns the Mutual Street Deli on the corner of the parking lot in question, says he’d be willing to sell the restaurant and move to another location if Ryerson made him an offer.
“If it’s a reasonable offer, we’d be fools to refuse it,” said Boulieris, whose family-owned business first opened in 1957.
“Ryerson has been good to us for years.”
Kennedy said that there is a severe “space crunch” for athletics at Ryerson when taking into account the university teams, recreation teams, intramurals and other sports clubs who use the gym. A new facility would be crucial to giving the athletes much-needed breathing space.
“It’s just a dream right now,” she says. “But it’s a fabulous dream and it would be fabulous for our sports.”
Brian Sutton is the manager of Moss Park Arena, where some of Ryerson’s intramural teams and figure skaters practice. He agrees that downtown Toronto could use another rink.
“It’s something that’s definitely needed downtown,” he said.
Ryerson has talked about expanding Moss Park’s facilities in the past, Sutton said, but the plans never came to fruition because of a lack of money.