By Steph Gellatly
Just a month after Ryerson announced its plans for a new athletics complex, Maple Leaf Gardens is buzzing with construction — and looking for cash to keep the renovations going.
“If you went into Maple Leaf Gardens, you’d see big machines clawing at cement, pulling out chairs. All the chairs are being bubble wrapped for sale,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.
Selling those bubble-wrapped stadium seats is one idea to raise some of the $15 million needed for the building’s redevelopment.
Fundraising for the new athletics facility will happen jointly with Loblaw Companies Limited, who have already donated $5 million to the $60 million project. The campaign is in its final stages of planning. According to Adam Kahan, vice-president university advancement, fundraising efforts will launch at the end of January.
“We have identified and thoroughly researched a list of potential donors,” Kahan said. Possible donors include individuals, as well as corporate and community partners, but he could not name any specifics.
Other possible plans include cutting out and selling puck-sized chunks of the cement that lied under the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens where the Toronto Maple Leafs won the 1967 Stanley Cup.
Kahan also said some students may be involved in the fundraising process. Ryerson will likely choose varsity athletes to represent the student body to potential donors.
Student-athletes played a major role in the referendum last spring, where students voted in favour of contributing $20 million to a new athletics facility once it opens.
“None of this would have happened without students,” said men’s varsity soccer player, Kwame Amoateng. “We’re the engine, we’re giving [the project] power to go forward.”
Athletes are already active in other fundraising campagins for the university, such as making appeals to alumni to sponsor and fund teams.
While fundraising plans are being developed, Kahan said securing donations for major projects like this can be a lengthy process.
“We want to get this going as soon as we can, but major gifts, where people are giving you millions of dollars, don’t occur overnight,” Kahan said.
In additon to exploring fundraising options, the university is on the lookout for an architect to make the interior better suited for an athletics centre.
“That’s a big, big job because you have to have people who understand how you put in ice, you have to have people who understand the flow of individuals,” Levy said.
For example, Levy said, the ideal candidate could deal with logistics such as figuring out a way to move hockey equipment up to the thirdfloor rink.