By Devin Knill
Ryerson University and Loblaw Company Limited received an award of merit from Heritage To- ronto last week for its renovations to Maple Leaf Gardens, transforming it into a grocery store and the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
Heritage Toronto has presented the award to groups who renovate and preserve historical buildings for the past 39 years. However, some activists find Ryerson’s win ironic in the midst of the Sam the Record Man sign controversy.
The Sam the Record Man store was known for creating a central meeting place for music-lovers.
“It’s both a tribute to the industry of the Yonge Street music scene and of Sam the Record man’s store and the man behind that store, Sam Sniderman,” said Nicholas Jen- nings, spokesperson for the Save Our Sign (SOS) Group, an organization dedicated to the reinstallation of the Sam the Record Man sign on Yonge Street.
According to Jennings, another recognizable sign hung a couple blocks away: Maple Leaf Gardens.
“Ryerson went to great lengths to save the marquee sign that hangs around the front of the [Mattamy] athletic centre,” said Jennings.
“That to me is another iconic sign and they saved that.”
The SOS Group believes that the same respect should be given to the Sam the Record Man sign.
Canadian artists, such as the Barenaked Ladies, The Tragically Hip and Geddy Lee, lead singer and guitarist of Rush, have spoken up about the sign sending letters to Toronto’s city council.
Jennings commended the efforts that Ryerson took with the design element of the Maple Leaf Gardens, changing it from a hockey rink to an athletic centre.
“All of that was very imaginatively done,” Jennings said.
The same seemed to be coming for the Sam sign when in 2008 Ryerson signed an agreement to remount the sign on the student centre.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy has proposed an alternate commemoration in the form of a side- walk replica of the sign, a plaque and a website.
“Those things are fine and should be encouraged but they shouldn’t take the place of the signs,” said Jennings.
“Mr. Levy should have gone down the design route that com- pelled the architects to come up with a beautiful building design which also incorporated the [Sam] sign.”
City councilors, like Ward 22 councilor Josh Matlow, have also been advocating on the Sam sign’s behalf. Matlow believes Ryerson could do better.
“To be fair, Ryerson should be commended for their work to preserve the Maple Leaf Gardens heritage but, they have done an equally wonderful job in preserv- ing the heritage as they have been a disappointment in regards to preserving the Sam sign,” said Matlow.
Levy has said in the past that Ryerson will uphold the original deal and install the sign on Gould Street if the city council does not pass the amended proposal.
“There is a very, very big difference between Maple Leaf Gardens and the [Sam the Record Man] sign,” Levy said. “We restored it for all the memories that the older generation had, and we created something that was for the future generations of our city … That’s why I think the Gardens has been such an enormous success.”