That time the Raptors and Leafs moved to the ACC
Old 02-22-2014, 09:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
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A little history...

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It was 15 years ago this week the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens took the ice at the Air Canada Centre for the first time. The game was the first NHL outing for the Buds away their spiritual home, Maple Leaf Gardens, where they had won 11 of their 13 Stanley Cups.

How the Leafs wound up in a former mail sorting facility behind Union Station is a tale of basketball, buyouts, and, most importantly, big money. The tale starts in 1993 with the awarding of a lucrative NBA expansion franchise to Toronto businessman John Bitove.

toronto raptors"Hoop, hoop, horray!" read The Toronto Star headline. "It's unanimous! NBA gives approval to T.O. franchise." The 27-member board of the National Basketball Association had approved a return of pro-basketball to Canada almost 50 years after the short-lived Toronto Huskies folded in 1947. The cost to start the new team: $125 million (US.)

As owner of the as-yet unnamed Toronto team, one of Bitove's first challenges was to build an arena. The team had secured permission to play on the floor of the massive 29,000 capacity Skydome in during the 1995 season but after that the team planned to move to an arena at the southwest corner of Bay and Dundas, which was to be called Centre Court.

It was a good thing too: Fans in the 500 level, those closest to the roof of the cavernous Skydome, complained they could barely see the action on the wooden court some 70 metres below.

The $100 million Centre Court would seat 20,000 and have room for 150 corporate boxes, the team said.
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With the purchase of the historic building - one of the first in the city to incorporate international style features - and a small patch of former railway lands, the Air Canada Centre was conceived. Canada's national carrier purchased the naming rights to the stadium for $30 million in 1995 and the Raptors planned to break ground on the project in November 1996, but a change of ownership would put paid to that.

Founder and president John Bitove was forced to sell his stake in the team to fellow shareholder Allan Slaight in a surprise "shotgun" agreement, giving Slaight 79% ownership. The newly empowered Slaight was in talks with construction tycoon and Leafs shareholder Larry Tanenbaum about the possibility of a stadium sharing agreement.

Slaight didn't see any major obstacles "as long as everybody [kept] an open mind."

The Leafs, meanwhile, were still trying hard to lure the Raptors away from the ACC, which the team believed would be too small for NHL hockey. The Buds were eyeing the possibility of new stadiums at the Exhibition grounds, near the Skydome, Varsity Stadium, and at Downsview.

Then the team did something few people saw coming.

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On April 17, 1997 the Leafs revealed plans to build an entirely new hockey arena a stone's throw from the Air Canada Centre, directly above the tracks of Union Station. The stadium would share the grand entrance of Toronto's railway terminal on Front Street and include a tower similar in design to one planned for the ACC.

Most importantly, the proposal did not foresee the Raptors as neighbours. Under the Leafs' plans, the postal station would be turned into a bus terminal and the basketball franchise moved under the same roof as the hockey team - too bad if the Raptors were already $80 million in the hole for the ACC and were obliged to be ready for the start of the 1999 NBA season.

As Osbaldeston wrote, the trouble was the Leafs didn't actually own the property the team planned to build on (and over.) Union Station was on land owned by the city and leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway.

The two rail companies were locked in a dispute with the city over millions in unpaid rent. The Leafs offered to cover CPR and CNR's costs and pay an additional $50 million on top for the land rights. There were additional sweeteners, too.

The Leafs balked at a counter offer from the city that would have cost the team significantly more. In a last ditch effort to reverse its fortunes, full-page ads were printed in Toronto newspapers appealing for public support.

It wasn't to be, however, and the team turned its focus once again to a stadium at the Exhibition grounds that appeared to have the support of city.
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In early 1998, the Leafs deked in a new direction entirely and bought the Raptors and their unfinished Bay Street arena wholesale. The team initially clung to the idea of a grand entrance through Union Station on Front Street but eventually dropped that idea too.

The Air Canada Centre opened in 1999 with both the Raptors and Leafs best friends.

http://www.blogto.com/city/2014/02/t...ed_to_the_acc/
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Old 02-22-2014, 09:52 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The skydome was horrible for basketball.
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Old 02-22-2014, 12:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by bjjs View Post
The skydome was horrible for basketball.
It's horrible for everything. lol

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Old 02-22-2014, 12:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thankfully they didn't go with the original plan.

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Old 02-22-2014, 02:22 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by jeffb View Post
Thankfully they didn't go with the original plan.

Honestly though, the fact that the ACC is one of the smallest SQFT arenas in the NBA is kinda bullshit, cause especially up in the 300's its wayyyyy to cramped. Its great they took a post modern approach, building the stadium down-town, right near the subway, but the stadium needed to be 50-100,000 sqft bigger so that anyone sitting in the 300's thats taller then 6tf wouldn't have their knees right up against the seat in front of them.

Add to that the fact that we live in Canada, and the sports played in there all take place in the winter time....well its cramped when you don't have 19,000 jackets to deal with.......
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Old 02-22-2014, 06:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yeah the 300s really are too cramped and steep.
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Old 02-22-2014, 06:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yeah the 300s really are too cramped and steep.
I agree, i'm 6'1" and it's tight. Can't imagine being taller and sitting up there. I'd rather stay home and watch it there then sit up there unless it's the playoffs
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