It’s an infrastructure project with a special place in the Prime Minister’s heart. The former Maple Leaf Gardens reopened today as the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens. It’s the new home of the Ryerson University Rams, as well as the school’s fitness centre. Stephen Harper’s government gave $20 million toward the renovation, and he was there to remind us. “The new athletic centre will have something for everyone,” he said. “Students will be able to work out in the gym… and even buy a few groceries on the way home,” he joked, referring to new grocery store beneath it.
The building has offered plenty to Harper in the past. He was awed by its size when he was a 10-year-old Torontonian. A notorious Beatles fan, he noted how all three North American Beatles tours stopped in the arena. A huge hockey fan, he talked of how the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup when they moved in in 1931. Harper finished his speech by drawing a parallel between a building that almost didn’t get built because of the Great Depression and the renovation, which was also started in a shaky economy. He dropped the first puck in front of a lectern emblazoned with the branding of Canada’s Economic Action Plan: Jobs, Growth and Prosperity.