Venue News: Hockey Returns to Maple Leaf Gardens; UK Mulls Rupp Renovations

Next spring, Maple Leaf Gardens will reopen for hockey’s return.  The iconic arena will be the centerpiece of Ryerson University’s new $71.2 million athletic complex, featuring 2,600 seats situated directly below the distinctive white dome of the old building, approximately 50 feet above the entrance off Carlton St. The new playing surface, which is roughly the height of the old green seats, will not only be the highest skating rink in Toronto but also make Maple Leaf Gardens the only one of the Original Six NHL arenas to still have ice. Four of the old buildings — Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and New York — have been demolished, and the Montreal Forum has been converted into retail space. In addition to hosting Ryerson home games, the school hopes to open the facilities “as close to 24-7 as possible” for such things as public skating. According to Ryerson President Sheldon Levy, the university and Loblaws are “very close” to an understanding with Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment to avert further court action in an ongoing dispute over the naming and use of the 80-year-old building…

…Renovating Rupp Arena would cost less than half of what the city would spend to build a new arena, and at the same time would include the priorities that the University of Kentucky says it wants in a basketball facility, according to a new feasibility study. Renovation would cost between $110 million and $130 million, compared to $300 million to $325 million for a new arena, according to the technical study that looked at long-term needs for the downtown arena and adjacent Lexington Center. The university’s priorities, which renovation could accommodate, include no loss of seating capacity; uninterrupted play while renovation is under way; upgraded, and in some cases new, support spaces; some premium seating; and new technology, including a center-hung scoreboard — perhaps eight-sided — that would display the score, player stats, show instant replays of the game, and have close-up shots of coaches and players. Furthermore, the University of Kentucky wants to retain the collegiate atmosphere of Rupp, rather than build an arena more appropriate for a professional team…

…The San Jose Earthquakes’ planned stadium will include luxury suites directly next to the field of play, a feature that Earthquakes president Dave Kaval says will be unique in the world of professional sports. The suites will have 17 seats apiece and amenities such as in-suite catering, a private bar, and a lounge area with a high-definition television. They will come at a cost of $70,000 per season, with a minimum five-year commitment, making for a total cost of $350,000. The suites will be available not only for Earthquakes games, but international games and other events as well. The current plans for the stadium have six suites located on each side of the field, close to the halfway line, meaning that fans on one side of the stadium will be right next to the players and coaches on the bench and a few yards from the sideline…

…Michigan State University athletics department officials are planning to make numerous upgrades to amenities at Spartan Stadium once information from an internal study comes through. According to Deputy Athletics Director Greg Ianni, the department is looking at making improvements to several stadium facilities, including stadium restrooms, concourse areas, and gate access areas, and will examine the potential costs for the renovations. Costs and a timeline for the upgrades are pending until further information can be gathered. But Ianni said there are no plans to change seating in the stadium. Spartan Stadium currently holds a maximum of 75,005 spectators. Football stadiums at the University of Michigan, Penn State University and Ohio State University all hold more than 100,000 spectators.