Thursday, March 20, 2014

Maple Leaf Gardens 1960's Expansion

I recently posted the above scan from a 1965 Toronto Maple Leafs program showing an open house from September 1965. The picture on the right interested me as it shows a model of a proposed expansion to Maple Leaf Gardens. A little digging turned up a couple of published mentions of this plan over the years.

The first one is a small article from the Canadian Press dated May 16, 1963;

4,000 Seat Expansion Program Sought By Maple Leaf Gardens
A plan for a $2,000,000 expansion to provide 4,000 extra seats in Maple Leaf Gardens was presented to City Council's Works Committee Wednesday.
Harold Ballard, vice-president of the Gardens, told the committee the project was proposed to increase the seating capacity to 18,400. He said there is a waiting list of 9,000 applications for season's tickets for NHL games played in the arena by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Preliminary sketches of two additions, at either end of the Gardens, indicated the structures will protrude in air space over Carlton Street and Wood Street from 18 to 20 feet. The committee learned from John Deacon, an assistant city solicitor, that the city has no legal power to grant the request for encroachments on the street or the air space above them. He said this is prohibited by provincial legislation.
Mr. Ballard said construction of one addition could be completed for the opening of the hockey season in the fall if work could get underway soon.
Alderman Horace Brown warned the matter might take weeks to be resolved and perhaps months if provincial legislation is required. Works Commissioner Douglas Ford said the proposal would have to go to the Building and Development Committee for zoning considerations.

Yes, I believe "Works Commissioner Doug Ford" is the father of current Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford. I also found in Toronto City Archives a photo of Harold Ballard holding the design plans that were being discussed. As we can see, the entire front of the Gardens would have lost it's iconic 1931 look. If the plan went through, the exterior style of the Gardens would have certainly entered the modern era. Interesting that the plans called for the expansion of one of the sides to have been done in mere months, just as the original construction of the building.
May 5, 1963
As we know, the plans were never implemented but eight years after first proposed it seems Ballard was still pushing for it. Below is a mention of it again by Canadian Press on November 5, 1971;

Maple Leaf Gardens may add 7,000 seats
Gardens president Harold Ballard said,"The first time when we asked the city to approve expansion plans in the north and south ends, we were turned down." If plans are approved, remodelling of the building would begin next spring.

Closeup of Gardens expansion model from Sept. 1965 open house.
In lieu of expansion that required approval of the City or the Province, The Gardens was merely expanded internally throughout the 1960's. By 1968 seating mezzanine galleries were added on the end walls increasing capacity to 16,485. It remained this until it's closure in 1999 when the Maple Leafs moved to the Air Canada Centre.

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