The thing to do this week in Toronto has been to visit the Loblaws store that has been built inside Maple Leaf Gardens. Yes, the city’s hockey shrine has been taken over for the purpose of groceries! This store has been in various discussion and planning stages for years and years. It was great to know that the owners of the building, MLSE and the Weston Corporation were able to pull this off.
So, there I am walking along Carlton street, a walk I remember from my childhood. The memories come back. The jostling crowd, the street vendors, the scalpers shouting “Who needs a pair?” The building looks the same as always from the outside, plus some parking garage added on the west side. All the parking lots in the area have long since become condo sites.
My anticipation builds as I step into the Loblaws store. I want to see what elements of the building have been preserved. Maybe the big arching ceiling with the staircases and catwalks, the gondola hanging down. But all I see is a grocery store. They managed to obliterate almost all traces of the old building. The grocery store has an industrial look, with its own new ceiling. There are going to be more levels above this for Ryerson University’s athletics facilities opening in 2012. The Loblaws space is of course a stunning grocery store! Arranged like a market, with well defined sections and stores within the store. It feels great to be back inside The Gardens, where the Leafs played their last game. There are pictures of some of the special historical moments that happened here: An Elvis concert; Muhammad Ali; The Beatles; Some hockey pictures. Oh well, they saved the building from the wreckers ball and repurposed the interior.
Then, as I wander through the store, I arrive at centre ice! Yes, tucked away amongst the tins of food in isle-25 a red circle on the floor marks centre ice. No special signs. As I take a picture of the floor someone asks me “Is that centre ice?” Fortunately I had already known where to look for it.
Toronto Life did a nice review with lots of pictures of the store. If you want to see more of what a grocery store looks like check this out.
If you are looking for parking, Loblaws added an underground parking garage. You get 1-hour free with a purchase of $18 or more in their store. The parking garage entrance is at the west end of the building from Carlton St.