Toronto Diary
2 min

Meet the Village’s Fancy New Neighbours

Maple Leaf Gardens is finally going to reopen after it was mothballed in 1999 and sold to Loblaws in 2004. The new plan calls for a Loblaws grocery store on the ground floor, a two-level sports centre for Ryerson University above it (complete with 5,000-seat ice hockey arena), and underground parking. The renovation is expected to cost $60 million for the sports centre and a further $25 million for the grocery store. The sports centre is being funded with a $20 million gift from the federal government’s bribery piggy bank stimulus fund and $20 million from Ryerson student fees, with the balance to be covered by a fundraising campaign kicked off by a $5 million donation from Loblaws. See, Loblaws is “donating” to a building it already owns. Just like when my dad “donated” $5,000 to build a deck in his backyard.

Actually, coverage so far has been really vague on the terms of the agreement — like, who owns the building at the end of the day? Is Ryerson going to be paying rent on the building? If so, why are the government and students being dinged to the tune of $40 million to renovate a building that Loblaws paid only $13 million for? Ryerson has also made a vague promise of public access to the sports complex and ice time, which seems a little optimistic given that almost no university keeps those sorts of promises once made (I’m leering at UofT Scarborough’s upcoming aquatic centre when I type this). 

The reno is also meant to be complete for 2011 — as per the federal stimulus requirements — which also poses another uncomfortable question: was this venue considered as a venue for the Pan-Am Games? Certainly it would be a much shorter commute than sending Taekwando, Wrestling, Judo, and Roller Sports to Mississauga. Or did UofT just do better lobbying for the glittering new venues it’s getting?

Meanwhile, city council is debating a new tax on billboards in the city, with revenues earmarked to enforce the city existing but laxly enforced sign by-laws and to support city beautification, arts, and cultural initiatives. Seems fair to me, but obviously the billboard industry is up in arms. Hopefully by the time you read this, the new tax will be passed.

Also today, it looks like Circa nightclub is bankrupt after a year of financial and legal troubles. The Star’s own article says that the club is not closing soon, contrary to what the headline implies, but I’ll keep an eye on this.

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