By Sean Tepper
It took nearly eight years, $60 million and countless delays, but for the first time since acquiring Maple Leaf Gardens, Ryerson University unveiled it’s new state-of-the-art athletic facility to the press earlier today in a ceremonial lighting ceremony that marked the first time the lights were turned on in the new arena.
“The project to bring ice back to the Gardens as part of Ryerson’s student home for athletics and recreation was an idea that became a reality through great partnerships, lots of collaborations and a lot of very hard work,” said Ryerson President Sheldon Levy. “Where we are now is the only [arena] of the original six NHL teams that will have hockey and ice in it forever.”
After Levy’s opening remarks, Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to the podium to talk about the significance of the famed landmark to both the university and the community at large.
“With a hockey rink, a basketball court and a weight room, this new home of Ryerson athletics and recreation will have something for everybody,” he said. “Athletes won’t have to leave the neighborhood for practice and students will be able to walk here after class, workout at the gym and then catch a game at Canada’s most famous arena.”
Harper also made it a point to emphasize how the new athletic center perfectly exemplifies public investment in an infrastructure project.
“We’re standing inside a perfect example of how a strategic infrastructure investment can create jobs, can preserve our history and can meet the need for a new facility,” he said to the nearly 200 people in attendance. “”Infrastructure money would have to be invested in projects that would leave a legacy for future generations. By partnering with Ryerson, we have built a new athletic center that will benefit both students and the broader community.”
The federal government contributed $20 million to the arena’s refurbishment costs while another $20 million coming from Ryerson students and $15 million from Peter Gilgan, the founder and CEO of Mattamy Homes, as well as additional contributions from Loblaws Companies Limited.
In addition to boasting the highest elevated skating rink in the city, the multi-purpose athletic center also features a 1,000-person capacity venue for basketball and volleyball.
Ryerson has severely lacked athletic space in the past, but the new facilities will allow students to practice closer to home.
While the arena will house Ryerson’s varsity volleyball, basketball and hockey teams, the university’s soccer team will still play their home games at Lamport Stadium which is an hour away from the university’s downtown campus. However, Ryerson’s athletic director Ivan Joseph said that the school already has something in the works to bring the soccer team closer to campus.
“[The soccer team] has a home too so they are not bitter but we are working on a project for them as we speak”
The Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens will hold its official opening ceremonies on September 6 for all Ryerson students and faculty.