BY CARYS MILLS
Ryerson and Loblaw Companies Limited are officially in talks about a partnership that would allow the university to house an athletic facility within Maple Leaf Gardens.
Both Ryerson and Loblaw, the current owner of Maple Leaf Gardens, made announcements on Sept. 16 after The Eyeopener published a series of articles about the possible venture. The building could contain both an athletic facility and grocery store.
Ryerson president, Sheldon Levy, said Ryerson is still looking at other options while talks about the property and funding continue.
Levy has seen about five blueprints outlining options for the interior of the Maple Leaf Gardens site.
”To determine whether or not it was a suitable location there had to be drawings ,” said Levy.
”There are lots and lots of options, each of them with a different price tag,” said Levy. ”For sure we’re going to need help with any one of them.”
An athletic referendum passed in March when 74 per cent of voters cast their votes in favour of a fee increase for a new facility, effective upon its completion. Funding may also come from government and university fundraising.
”It’d be a great thing for the university, although I understand there’d be some financial challenges,” said Toronto mayor, David Miller, who said the city is unable to contribute financially.
Levy has made a funding application to the federal government, but refused to disclose the amount requested.
Wherever the facility goes it will require university fundraising, according to Adam Kahan, vice president university advancement. Ryerson is already preparing specific fundraising initiatives for the possible Maple Leaf Gardens site.
The campaign may include naming opportunities, allowing individuals and corporations to name the facility, a rink, gym or court for millions of dollars, said Kahan. Companies would also be able to sponsor the facility without naming part of it.
Admirers of the historic building could be targeted through sales of the arena’s original seats and an online campaign asking for donations to assist with restoring the building to a functioning arena.
”I think anything to do with Maple Leaf Gardens will be sold in a instant,” said Ivan Joseph, athletics director. Joseph said town hall meetings will be held before specific plans go ahead for the facility as an attempt to serve all students.
”I want to make sure to talk to those who aren’t using the [current] recreation and athletics centre, I want to know why,” said Joseph.