The intersection at Carlton and Church Street in Toronto is an exciting place to be as September mornings have begun in shivers and the hustle and bustle of Ryerson campus is in full sight. At this particular intersection in Toronto stands a magnificent art-deco building, built in 1931 who’s beauty is not fully experience until standing across from the bright white marquee that lights up the street. It’s larger than life, breath taking, and inspiring and there is liveliness inside you would never image from a view on street level. Once called Maple Leaf Gardens, this building, rich with history of local events and hockey lore is now branded with a new breath of energy; a collective breath, by Ryerson Athletics and the Ryerson Rams Varsity teams.
This past weekend was opening weekend for the renovated building now the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens, known as MAC by Ryerson students and staff. Stands in the Coca-Cola Court and hockey rink were filled with fans, families and students and roars of cheers echoed through the hallways for opening games for both men’s and women’s Varsity games for this opening weekend. I couldn’t help but think, “When was the last time this building was filled with so much passion?” and more so, “When was the last time the Ryerson Rams were supported with so much energy from the community?” It is incredible to see how the creation of a new facility has to ability to unite a community so immediately, with such spirit. It is almost as if the Ryerson community, both athletics and otherwise have been searching for a place to call their own, a place to gather, to cheer, to come together with passion and excitement. To cheer on their teams and to affirm an identity. We study at Ryerson University, but we are apart of something bigger. Even though we are in the heart of Downtown Toronto there is a great sense of community here and when we finish school and continue on our way through life, we will feel a connection to the Ryerson Rams. That is something every student here, athlete or not, has the ability to share.
As I walk through the building every day of the past few weeks of this new semester, I can’t help but notice the depth of impact the MAC has already created in the student community, enriching the student experience here. Athletes from every sport are walking past each other, saying hello, asking, “How did you do this weekend?” There is a new athletic therapy clinic dedicated to Varsity Athletes where athletes come together, over injuries and chat, finding out about each other, making true connections. These are connections that in the past were difficult to make when the Rams didn’t have a home. But here is a place open to the general community and united through the cohesiveness of varsity athletes. Staff from the coaches, trainers and athletic therapists to the welcome desk staff, to construction workers and custodians all greet you with a smile, a nod and an “How are you doing today?” People are happy and excited just to be in this building, where the new weight room is crowded at all hours of the day and a communal heartbeat is pumping through the veins of this facility and somehow felt the moment you arrive.
Our President Sheldon Levy, Athletic Director Ivan Joseph and all administrative staff involved in this transformation have done something incredible at Ryerson. They have changed the culture of an entire school, and brought hope and passion back into the hearts of students and athletes. This community has such privilege to have been given such an outstanding facility to practice and compete for our school, and we are so PROUD to be Ryerson Rams. We are committed to sharing that same spirit with other students, freshman, recruits, families, friends and members of the downtown communities that surround our university. Bring your family for a game, bring a friend for a workout, or just take a ride up the escalator into a reinvented student community. The energy is infectious, and I assure you we will make your day.
This is Our House Now. I invite you to come say Hello.