It has 76 years of history, 11 Stanley Cups, three concerts by the Beatles, and in 1999 Ryerson had a chance to save it from Loblaws.
In the fall of 1999, Ryerson was approached by developers with plans to rent out multi-purpose space at Maple Leaf Gardens to the university.
At the time, Ryerson was looking into space for a new business building and considered MLG a possible solution.
In 2000, a review concluded Ryerson should pass on MLG in favour of on-campus development.
Four years later the building was sold to Loblaws for allegedly $13 million — 10 million less than Ryerson just spent on the Sam the Record Man building.
“For us, it was the opportunity to engage in our own commitment to a new engineering building and other buildings on campus,” said Linda Grayson, VP of Administration and Finance.
“In the context of all the other things we were taking on, [MLG] didn’t seem to be the highest priority.”
Although money commitments to the construction of the engineering building and plans for the student campus centre were being made, Grayson said it wasn’t just money that kept Ryerson out of MLG.
“There were a lot of heritage issues. There were issues around making sure the heritage of the existing façade remained.”
It was highly unlikely that MLG could have become the home to Ryerson’s men’s hockey team.
Larry Tannenbaum, MLG’s former owner, nixed the sale of the site to developers who planned on retaining the building as an ice rink because he wanted to avoid possible competition with the recently built Air Canada Centre.
John Sewell, a former mayor of Toronto and key supporter in the fight to keep MLG as an ice rink, said he doesn’t believe that money was a factor in Ryerson passing on MLG.
“I am sure they could find a donor overnight who would say, ‘Sure, I’ll put $30 million into that.’ “If the city owned it in conjunction with Ryerson, what a spectacular arrangement.”
Although Ryerson President Sheldon Levy wasn’t hired on until 2005, Sewell said he has spoken with Levy about MLG.
“It’s clear he’s interested, but he doesn’t want to run into trouble with [Mayor David Miller].
The mayor has said he likes the Loblaws proposals and if you’re the head of Ryerson and you’ve got these big plans for redevelopment, then you don’t want to get in trouble with the mayor. So that’s smart on Sheldon’s part.”