Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The Gardens

Our favourite Sunday Sun read was Bill Lankhof's update on the foggy future of Maple Leaf Gardens, a nostalgic, historic treasure privately owned by Weston Foods.

Bill's two-page spread turned the mood to optimistic pessimism, with the potential for preserving the last of the original six hockey palaces still possible, but not probable.

Not much has changed since Jan. 30, 2007, when CFTO took viewers on a tour of the empty Gardens, littered with debris and the occasional dead rodent.

But as long as the Gardens still stands, there is hope.

In the 1980s, the owners of the building housing the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in New York announced it would be converted into office space.

Tickets for a final Radio City stage show spectacular went on sale and this blogger, a fan of the massive theatre since the 1950s when top Toronto Star subscription sales carriers were treated to movie/stage show visits, was there to say goodbye.

Within days of the "final" show, a rescue plan was announced and Radio City was spared. Can you imagine the Big Apple today without Radio City? We can't.

As for the Gardens, we saw Elvis there in '57, the Beatles and the Stones in the '60s, thanks to Stan Obodiac, several hockey games, the circus etc. So many memories.

The future of the Gardens has been cloaked in confusion since the Maple Leafs moved out 10 years ago. Bill's spread not only brought us up to date, it sparked a glimmer of hope.

Yes, it is a privately owned prime piece of real estate, but with the downturn in the economy, perhaps Weston might be tempted to offer it for sale.

The Gardens, much like Radio City, could again be a magnet for thousands of visitors to downtown Toronto, but it would take a bold new plan by community leaders to get it done.

Bill's story has rekindled hope, however slim, of seeing the Gardens rise again.

Once it's gone, it's gone.

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