Federal boost seals Maple Leaf Gardens deal

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By Carys Mills

Hockey fans will once again walk through the turnstiles and fill the seats of Maple Leaf Gardens. But instead of Leafs, they’ll root for the Rams.

On. Dec. 1, the federal government announced they’d chip in the final $20 million needed to start construction on Ryerson’s new athletic centre in the historic arena.

“A year ago we had a dream… now we have a dream come true,” said President Sheldon Levy at the press conference.

The athletic centre, to be designed by Turner Fleischer Architects Inc., must be completed by March 2011. Ryerson’s athletic centre will be on the second and third floors of Maple Leaf Gardens with a Loblaw’s store on ground level.

The rest of the $60-million project will be covered by $20 million from the athletic referendum, a $5 million contribution from Loblaw Companies Limited and $15 million from a joint fundraising campaign between Ryerson and Loblaw.

According to Levy, Loblaw approached the university after the referendum passed.

Last week, as Levy walked in the rain on his way from Queen’s Park, he received the call he’d been waiting for.

“I remember almost like walking above the rain,” said Levy.

“You have the whole of Toronto watching over your shoulders so you were either going to be a public failure or a public success,” said Levy, after months of government silence.

An emergency Board of Governors meeting held via teleconference on Nov. 26 approved Gardens plans.

“They’ve demonstrated before that they can get things done,” said Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, about Levy and Galen Weston, Loblaw executive chairman.

According to Galen Weston, there will be a memorabilia shop in the Gardens.

The athletic building will include an NHL-sized rink, a 200-metre track and other fitness facilities.

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