November 23 2011: Installed yesterday, the new Maple Leaf Gardens marquee has a retro look befitting the historic hockey arena building, which opened in 1931. Below are two more photos of the marquee.
November 1 2011: A mid-morning view of Maple Leaf Gardens at the northwest corner of Church & Carlton Streets
Coming soon: “When is it finally going to open?” That question is almost constantly on the minds of thousands of people who live and work near the intersection of Church and Carlton Streets, where construction activity both inside and outside the Maple Leaf Gardens building continues at a relentless pace.
For residents of nearby condos, co-ops and apartments, the long-overdue opening of the historic hockey arena’s new occupants — including a Loblaws grocery store, an LCBO liquor outlet, and Ryerson University’s Athletics Centre at the Gardens — won’t happen soon enough. They are weary from months of traffic restrictions on sidewalks and streets adjacent to the Gardens, as well as the daily disruption, dirt and noise from both construction work and the heavy concrete trucks, equipment and supply vehicles, and portable cranes that steadily stream to and from the project site.
Also eagerly anticipating an end to construction are hockey and heritage fans, as well as countless other people who are simply curious to see how the Gardens’ interior has been transformed during the two years since the revitalization project began.
Relief for all is now in the foreseeable future since the grocery store appears poised for a possible November opening, while the Ryerson athletic centre is on track for completion and occupancy sometime during the upcoming winter months.
Massive recruitment drive
Although a Loblaws spokesperson told me yesterday that details for the grocery store opening date haven’t been determined yet, the neighbourhood has been buzzing with word it could be open for business in as few as two to three weeks’ time. Loblaws recently launched a massive recruitment drive, hiring hundreds of part-time staff to work in what is shaping up to become the chain’s premier flagship store. Several new staff told me they’ve been training at various Toronto Loblaws stores during the past three weeks. They said they initially were advised they would be working in the Gardens by the end of this week, but the date was pushed back and they’re now expecting to start work in the new store shortly after the middle of the month. Similarly, staff at a nearby liquor store said they have been told the new LCBO Gardens outlet should be open sometime between the middle and end of November. From what I could see through windows and open doors earlier this week, however, a Loblaws opening closer to December appears more likely.
Meanwhile, Ryerson students will have to wait several more months before they’ll get to check out the university’s new sports and recreation facilities. According to the Ryerson University website, the sports centre is expected to be completed and ready for occupancy in “winter 2012.” A status update on the website says some of the construction activity currently underway includes “work on the roof dormers along the west side of the dome roof. Roof dormers are connected to the dome and are openings that provide ventilation to allow air to flow into the arena from the mechanical system. Work on the Carlton Street marquee is also underway; this canopy over the main entrance is being reinforced by additional steel and is being prepared for the installation of the historic ‘Maple Leaf Gardens’ signage. The installation of glass windows on the street level, light fixtures in the stairwells and the fire alarm system is also in progress. Work on the mechanical system continues, including installing piping for the gas, sprinkler and the hot and cold water systems.”
The Loblaw Companies Limited website doesn’t provide any information about its Gardens location, but the Ryerson University website says the architectural team for the Gardens transformation includes Turner Fleischer Architects Inc. for the “base building” and BBB Architects Inc. for the “Ryerson fit up.” Heritage consultant is E.R.A. Architects Inc.
Below are some of my recent photos of activity on the outside of Maple Leaf Gardens. I haven’t been able to photograph inside the building; however, if you want to see what’s been happening there, the Ryerson Builds webpage features a slideshow with 42 photographs showing construction activity inside the Gardens between January 2010 and September of this year (I have posted one of those pics below). The homepage of the Turner Fleischer website includes a direct link to more photos, from December 2009 to October 2010, in an album entitled “Maple Leaf Gardens Progress.” Additional photos can be viewed in my previous posts on the Gardens makeover: June 14 2011, April 14 2011, and March 29 2011.
From the Ryerson Builds webpage, this photo from September 2011 shows building progress on the NHL-sized hockey rink at the university’s new athletics centre. A slideshow on the webpage includes 41 more photos of construction activity inside Maple Leaf Gardens.
November 1 2011: The Carlton Street facade of Maple Leaf Gardens. The public sidewalk next to the building, along with one lane of westbound traffic, have been closed virtually all of this year.
November 1 2011: The canopy over the Carlton Street entrance is being reinforced with extra steel. Maple Leaf Gardens signage will be installed on the marquee.
November 1 2011: The entrance to the Loblaws grocery store will be at the Gardens’ southeast corner.
November 1 2011: Part of the frame for the corner canopy was put in place several weeks ago, but entrance doors haven’t yet been installed
September 3 2011: Looking west from Church Street at the sidewalk and street closure along the Gardens’ Carlton Street facade.
October 1 2011: Passersby will be able to see into the new Loblaws grocery store through these windows which were installed in the Gardens’ Church Street facade
October 8 2011: Another view of the new windows along Church Street
November 1 2011: New sidewalks being installed on Church Street
November 1 2011: Although new sidewalks are being installed on Church Street, work on the east wall of the Gardens is far from finished
November 1 2011: Grocery store windows on the east side of the building. Traffic on Church Street was restricted during sidewalk replacement work.
November 1 2011: The northeast corner of Maple Leaf Gardens, at Church and Wood Streets. The stretch of Wood Street next to the Gardens is usually crowded with cranes, concrete trucks, heavy construction vehicles and equipment.
November 1 2011: Newly-installed windows near the northeast corner of the building. During the spring and summer, this was one of three separate spots where concrete trucks and other vehicles could access the interior of the Gardens.
November 1 2011: A crew uses a portable lift to work on the Wood Street facade. A red construction elevator rises from the building’s north side, providing access to the Ryerson sports facilities being built on the upper levels inside the Gardens.
November 1 2011: Looking east along Wood Street at the external construction elevator and a truck delivering concrete for the Ryerson Athletics Centre at the Gardens. This stretch of street is usually jammed with cranes, lifts and trucks.
November 1 2011: Trailer-sized mechanical equipment on the roof of the Gardens dwarf two construction supervisors looking down onto Church Street.
August 2 2011: This mechanical equipment is a new Gardens fixture; it was installed only this year, during the spring and summer.
November 3 2011: Two men on a portable lift work on the Church Street facade
June 14 2011: Carlton Street view of Maple Leaf Gardens, looking northwest
Talking turkey: If all goes according to plan for the Maple Leaf Gardens revitalization project, downtown residents will flock to the historic hockey shrine to shop for Thanksgiving turkeys this fall. Construction of a 70,000 square foot Loblaws grocery store inside the Gardens fell behind schedule this year (it was supposed to be open by now), but I’ve been told that Loblaws anticipates work will finish within the next three months. The goal is to open the store by summer’s end so Loblaws can cash in as shoppers rush to fill their kitchen cupboards for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. On the other hand, a completion date remains far from certain for the Ryerson University Sports and Recreation Centre, which is being built on two levels directly above the Loblaws store, since substantial construction work remains to be done there. When I got a peek inside the ground level of the Gardens a few days ago, I didn’t think the Thanksgiving target would be achievable. When I asked one of the site supervisors if work would be finished by October, he chuckled and said: “As we say in construction, ‘it will be finished when it’s finished.'” But another man in a white hard hat told me that once the “shell” of the grocery store is finished, which he said should happen soon, the grocery store interior will take shape rapidly.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot happening outside the Gardens, too. Scaffolding that has shrouded much of the building’s south wall along Carlton Street is gradually being dismantled as crews complete window installation and work on the brick facade. From street level, the most noticeable change has been the removal of the long blue and silver Maple Leaf Gardens marquee above the main entrance; it will be replaced. Just around the corner, southbound traffic on Church Street is disrupted frequently when portable cranes pull up to hoist steel bars and other building materials for the Ryerson sports complex onto the Gardens roof (a supervisor said that’s how most construction supplies must be loaded into the Ryerson section of the Gardens now that the grocery store has filled out most of the ground level). The dome atop the Gardens roof is being refurbished, too, and once that is done, a new maple leaf logo will be painted on the broad white surface and Canadian flags will be raised to flutter from the empty rooftop flagpoles. Below are photos I have shot since late April of construction activity outside and on top of Maple Leaf Gardens. To view photos of earlier stages of construction, check out my posts from April 14 2011, March 29 2011, and February 2 2011.
April 29 2011: Roof work underway on the north side of the Gardens’ dome
April 29 2011: Another view of revitalization work on the roof of the Gardens
April 30 2011: Scaffolding covers the middle third of the Maple Leaf Gardens south wall along Carlton Street. The Canadian flags and the blue and silver marquee above the main entrance will be removed as work proceeds on the building.
April 30 2011: Scaffolding rises from the marquee above the main entrance all the way to the top of the building’s south wall.
April 30 2011: A view of the main entrance before the marquee is removed
April 30 2011: Window replacement and brickwork is underway behind the shrouds
April 30 2011: The sidewalk and one westbound lane on Carlton Street have been closed so crews can finish exterior work on the Gardens
May 13 2011: Construction workers on the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens
May 13 2011: Workers atop the dome’s northeast corner above Church Street
May 13 2011: A truck pumps concrete through the Maple Leaf Gardens roof and into the Ryerson University sports complex being built on the upper two levels
May 13 2011: Concrete pumper above the southeast corner of Maple Leaf Gardens
May 13 2011: Pumpcrete vehicle delivering concrete for the sports complex
May 13 2011: The long boom of the Pumpcrete truck rises to the roof
May 13 2011: A closer view of the Pumpcrete machine
May 13 2011: A concrete truck outside the Gardens’ Carlton Street main entrance
June 1 2011: A crane hoists a load of steel bars to the roof of the Gardens
June 1 2011: A worker guides the load to the rooftop
June 3 2011: With the roof recovered, brickwork proceeds on the north wall
June 3 2011: Workers replace a window on the Wood Street wall of the Gardens
June 14 2011: A crane hoists building materials to the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens
June 14 2011: Another load of construction material rises to the rooftop
June 14 2011: Two construction workers watch as the crane hoists its load
June 14 2011: Workers watch and wait while the crane hoists supplies to the roof
June 14 2011: Scaffolding rises up the south side of Maple Leaf Gardens
June 14 2011: The scaffolding is gradually being removed as brickwork is finished
June 14 2011: A metal frame (bottom) is all that remains of the long blue and silver marquee that used to hang above the Gardens’ Carlton Street entrance
June 14 2011: Another view of scaffolding above the Carlton Street entrance
April 14 2011: A worker walks on the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens below a row of platforms that descend the building’s big white dome
Top to bottom, inside and out: Construction crews were tackling the giant Maple Leaf Gardens revitalization project on three fronts today: on the roof, outside walls, and in the cavernous interior. But they still have a very long way to go before the inside begins to even remotely resemble the Loblaw grocery store and Ryerson University Sports and Recreation Centre that will occupy the historic building. My last glance inside the Gardens was late last month, when an open construction entrance gave me the chance to take a few photos which I published in a March 29 2011 post. When I passed the Gardens again today and got another peek inside two different construction entrances, I could see machines pumping concrete into forms for upper-level floors and walls, while crews removed segments of a disassembled construction crane from the building. But from those vantage points, it was difficult to tell if much progress has been made in the past three weeks; the interior didn’t look substantially different than last time. Progress has been more visible outside, where work is underway on the roof and on the Gardens’ facades along Church and Carlton Street, where holes are being knocked in the walls, presumably to create windows for the Loblaws store. Below are several pics of today’s revitalization activity.
Maple Leaf Gardens exterior wall work at the corner of Church & Carlton
Workers watch as a machine tears a hole in the Gardens’ SE corner
The wall was exposed last week; today it was being taken apart
The view inside the construction entrance at the Gardens’ northeast corner. Concrete is being pumped for the floor of the third level above street grade.
Construction equipment inside the north end of Maple Leaf Gardens today included an excavator (foreground), concrete pumper (center) and crane (right)
The north side of the Maple Leaf Gardens interior, along Wood Street
A concrete delivery truck and pumper wait their turn outside the Wood Street construction entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens
Construction vehicles on Wood Street outside Maple Leaf Gardens
Platforms descend the SE corner of Maple Leaf Gardens’ domed roof
Construction progress inside Maple Leaf Gardens on March 29 2011.
Under the big top: The enormous cavern under the big white domed roof of Maple Leaf Gardens keeps buzzing with construction activity. But there’s an awful lot of work remaining to be done before the interior of the historic hockey shrine starts looking like a grocery store and a university athletic facility. Latest word is that the Maple Leaf Gardens revitalization is scheduled for completion in December but — as is always the case with any construction project — that deadline isn’t cast in concrete and is always subject to change. In my February 2 post about the project, I mentioned what little construction progress I had been able to see when passing the Gardens while one of the construction entrance doors was open. I’ve since had a few more quick glimpses inside and today was lucky to have my camera with me when doors were opened to allow construction vehicles in and out of the building. I managed to snap a few photos which appear below, along with some other recent pics of Maple Leaf Gardens.
The interior arch on the west side of the hockey arena’s famous domed roof is visible above the spotlights. The new Ryerson University sports and recreation centre will occupy two floors under the dome. It will have an NHL-sized ice rink as well as a running track, basketball and volleyball courts, a fitness centre, gym and academic space. The university facility alone is costing more than $60 million.
Maple Leaf Gardens interior viewed from the northeast corner of the building
The revitalized Maple Leaf Gardens will become home to a 70,000 square foot Loblaw grocery store at street level, with one floor of underground parking below it (partly visible at the bottom of the photo).
This is a typical street view of the cavernous interior of Maple Leaf Gardens — a dark, dusty space buzzing with activity as the Loblaw corporation and Ryerson University transform the Gardens into a unique multi-purpose facility.
A concrete pumping truck slowly backs into the Maple Leaf Gardens construction entrance on Wood Street. Earlier this winter, a hole was knocked into the wall to create an extra entrance at this location.
It’s a tight squeeze, but the truck manages to ease inside in less than a minute
February 20 2011: Windows will eventually be installed for the grocery store
Wide windows along the Church and Carlton Street walls of Maple Leaf Gardens will create a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape
February 20 2011: The southeast corner of Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton Street
March 25 2011: Scaffolding above the Gardens’ Carlton Street entrance
March 25 2011: The boarded-up Carlton Street entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens
Maple Leaf Gardens rendering from Ryerson University website
Landmark lives on: From the outside, there have been few signs that the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens hockey shrine is gradually being transformed into a multipurpose facility housing a giant grocery store and a university athletic centre. Last fall, scaffolding and green safety nets shrouded the east and south facades during brickwork and window replacement activity. For the past two months, crews have been busy working on utilities beneath the Carlton Street sidewalk and Church Street pavement at the southeast corner of the building. Over the same period, teams have been doing some roofing work atop the arena’s famous white dome. And the past two weeks, workers have been chiselling brickwork from a section of wall on the north side of the Gardens, along Wood Street. None of the work gives any indication that the storied, historic Gardens soon will be living a renewed life as a modern retail and recreation facility.
However, it’s a different story altogether if you get to peek inside the loading door at the northeast corner of the building whenever a cement or construction supply truck comes out or goes in. Over the past six months, I’ve had that opportunity a handful of times, managing to catch quick glimpses of the cavernous construction zone that’s largely hidden from public view. Unfortunately, I’ve never had my camera with me, so I haven’t been able to track the interior construction progress in photos. In November, I got a brief look inside while the construction workers were on their morning break. With beams of light streaming through the narrow, small windows on the Gardens’ upper walls, the dusty interior had an eerie, haunting atmosphere. The building was just a gigantic brick shell; the inside had been gutted, and the ground was being dug out to create an underground parking garage. I couldn’t see anything holding up the huge walls and vast domed roof, but assume there must have been some kind of support for all that weight. The last few times I peeked inside, it appeared that excavation work was nearly complete; meanwhile, forms several storeys tall were being assembled so concrete could be poured to build walls and floors for the 70,000-square-foot Loblaw supermarket that will occupy the ground level of the “new” Gardens. Just last week I got another look, and it seemed obvious there is an incredible amount of work still to be done to create the upper levels that will house the 150,000-square-foot Ryerson University Sports and Recreation Centre.
The Centre is a $60 million project for which the federal government is contributing $20 million under the Canada Infrastructure Stimulus Fund (the university and Loblaws are responsible for the rest). However, projects that qualify for stimulus funding must be completed by March 31 of this year — and there is clearly no way on earth the Maple Leaf Gardens transformation will be done in time. Certainly looks like an extension or exemption will be required here. I’m anxious to see work start on the building exterior — the installation of street-level windows for the supermarket, the pedestrian entrances to the two separate facilities, and of course the vehicle entrance to the underground lot. Project details are provided in a Ryerson University press release available at this link. The complexities of the Maple Leaf Gardens transformation are outlined in this article from the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record, while seven construction photos by The Globe and Mail‘s Fred Lum can be viewed at this link on the Globe website. Below are some of my photos of the Gardens exterior at different times over the past several years.
Southeast view of Maple Leaf Gardens on November 28 2008
Former Carlton Street entrance to Maple Leaf Gardens on November 28 2008
East wall brickwork and window replacement on September 4 2010
Scaffolding was removed from the east wall in early December 2010
New windows in the east wall along Church Street
Work crew atop the Maple Leaf Gardens domed roof December 21 2010
Exterior work on the west end of the Carlton Street facade December 26 2010
Ryerson University and Loblaws sign on the Church Street wall
Brick removal from the Wood Street wall on January 14 2011
Construction equipment along Wood Street on January 30 2011
Facade work continuing along Wood Street on January 30 2011
Maple Leaf Gardens viewed from Wood Street on January 30 2011