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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Air Canada Centre facelift for 10th anniversary

It might soon get a little easier to take the kids to Leafs and Raptors games.

In a move to mark the Air Canada Centre's 10th year in operation, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the parent company of the Leafs and Raptors, is planning a $40 million renovation in three years that could see the arena add a children's playground and food court.Construction is set to begin in the summer of 2008 and Maple Leaf Sports hasn't yet hired an architect to design the improvements.In an interview with the Sports Business Journal, a sports industry trade publication that first reported the planned renovation, MLSE executive vice-president Bob Hunter said that the changes would "be similar to what Portland, Detroit and Phoenix are doing, but it will focus as much on public amenities as premium."The Pistons' most recent upgrades of The Palace at Auburn Hills include a food court built as part of a 60,000-square-foot addition to the arena, while the Suns recently revamped America West Arena to create a children's playground in the arena's upper deck.Phoenix also recently opened an indoor/outdoor bar that features a broadcast studio that doubles as a stage.MLSE spokesperson Rajani Kamath said yesterday that most of the changes to the arena would be focused on its west side and would come as a result of plans to develop a new $350 million complex, to be called Maple Leaf Square.Five months ago, Maple Leaf Sports announced the new facility, which will feature a sports bar and a 2,000-seat music club. Maple Leaf Square is to be located on a parking lot just west of the arena and will be connected to the arena by a glass-covered bridge.
Kamath said much of the renovation would focus on giving people arriving at the Air Canada Centre from Maple Leaf Square direct access to the arena's private-suite levels.A shopping mall included in Maple Leaf Square is also set to have a 171-room, sports-themed boutique hotel and an upscale restaurant.The Air Canada Centre, which cost $265 million to build, opened in February 1999 and was designed by Toronto architect Brisbin Brook Beynon, which this year has also worked on renovations for Madison Square Garden in New York and the Rose Garden arena in Portland, Ore.

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