"before" shot courtesy Fanbase.com
We've been watching the transformation of The Gardens for well over a year, after first waiting and wondering what was to become of the place for more than a decade. Living on a nearby block, we've had perhaps more reason than others to be curious (even apprehensive) about the outcome. What was going to happen to the traffic situation in our neighbourhood? Were they going to do a respectable job of honouring the shrine to the Leafs that is such an icon in our 'hood? Would it help revitalize the ailing block along Church Street where it sits?
We're very happy to report that everybody touched by this massive makeover seems to have come out a winner: Ryerson University is about to get a fantastic athletic facility; Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that own the Maple Leafs brand seems to have backed away from its petty and unenforceable insistence that the place not continue to be called Maple Leaf Gardens, and have allowed that name to remain on the historic exterior marquis; a hockey rink will continue to thrive under the storied rafters of the Gardens' giant roof; parking is minimal and is sensibly accessed only from Carlton Street; and the huge windows into Loblaws along Church Street have instantly brought the block back to life. And best of all for us- we have a huge flagship supermarket right next door!
Looking in from Church Street (above)
Ryerson's new rink (below)
The beautifully restored (or re-built?) marquis on Carlton St. (above)
They opened last Wednesday to all day line-ups of the curious waiting to get in, and this past weekend things really didn't subside any. While we were able to walk straight in on Saturday afternoon, by the time we left there were once again police officers at the front doors doing crowd control! We predict things will stay this way till we all go into hibernation mode around January 5th of next year.
The photos below show the great volume that has been maintained in the space. On the second level is the Joe Fresh shop, a liquor store, and a Loblaws cooking school.
Lot's of freshly prepared food options, right inside the front door.
We love that the wall beside the escalators was kept entirely as found. You can see the old bricks, blue wall paint and the profile of the stairways that used to take you to the nosebleed levels! And the clusters of old blue- level seats welded together to form a 3D maple leaf is great!
(Above, part of the ad campaign in College subway station)