The $350-million facelift of Scotiabank Arena is not just meant for big spenders to relax in restaurant ‘dream’ seats and sumptuous private suites.
While it’s true that most of Leafs Nation can’t imagine affording the ‘reimagination’ that’s coming to many facets of the home of the Leafs and Raptors, there will be changes the general public can see and appreciate.
The massive project, timed around the building’s 25th anniversary in 2024, has already begun with changes this past summer that opened up 46 of the 200 Level executive suites.
Better food and beverage services, including AI grab n’ go technology that eliminates beer lines as they did at Rogers Centre, will be in place for Wednesday’s opener against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Mastercard club lounge in the southwest corner, where 16 traditional suites used to be, has been turned over to 200 members with their dedicated seat for the game and a restaurant with Michelin-trained chefs.
But it’s after the hockey and basketball seasons end — hopefully very late in spring if you work for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment — that the bulk of the work will begin.
The cramped 100 level concourse will be widened with “screens, beacons and hubs”, more casual dining, a second team apparel shop and a view to a new broadcast studio. The ‘bunker suites’ beneath the stands at ice level will become part of a more accessible Tunnel Club with a chance for more people than can presently be accommodated to see the players and opposition walk from the dressing room en route to the ice or court.
Did we mention modern art? The call went out to 34 Canadian artists for 76 commissioned works, themed on the two teams, as well as musical acts in tribute to SBA’s concert history, including photography and mixed media.
They include some iconic images of Leafs stars going back to the Gardens era and some heart rendering photos of the late Borje Salming’s last visit to Toronto.
The pieces are already in place on the walls outside the suites and some can be viewed through the pedestrian walkway on the west side. The plan is to eventually make prints available.
While the media had a tour on Tuesday, potential free agents or front office hirings are going to be impressed with what they’ve done with the old place.
“Everyone wants to be associated with the best,” said Nick Eaves, Chief Venues and Operations Officer for MLSE. “A lot goes into that already with our practice facilities, the market for (players’) families and the rest of it. But when this building is complete and even when we’re making our way through (renovations) now, it will be something we can be proud of, a talking point.”
Eaves said any future ticket price increase for fans is not linked to the cost of this project, but will continue to be based on an annual review of revenue.
Because it sits on a small footprint of the old Postal Building, seating capacity for hockey, 18,819, will not go up or down when the reno is complete. The video board still has a few years of use in it and a new one won’t be part of the changes.
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