As first reported by TSN, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has agreed to rename their arena — and beloved institution? — the Air Canada Centre. As of July 1st, 2018, the building will be called the Scotiabank Arena. The 20-year deal with the bank to change the name is apparently worth $800 million. I’m no financial expert but that strikes me as a lot of cash.
MLSE signs deal with major Canadian bank.— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) August 29, 2017
Air Canada Centre name to change July 1, 2018.
Story up shortly at TSN.ca.
Since opening on February 19, 1999, the ACC sought to unite the Toronto Maple Leafs, then playing in the old school (and decaying) Maple Leaf Gardens, and the relatively new Raptors, then playing in a freakin’ baseball stadium. Full build-out of the site and its adjacent lands over time has seen the construction of the Maple Leaf Square public space (a.k.a. Jurassic Park), an adjacent condo tower (this is Toronto after all), and a bevy of other retail spots — Real Sports, a Longos grocery store, whatever the hell e11even is, and more. There are even things still happening there, with the ongoing renovation to the ACC’s connection to Union Station, the city’s largest transit hub. For modern downtown sports stadiums, I contend that the ACC is and has always been a model for how to do it right. (The fact that both it and the Rogers Centre were built without any wasteful on-site parking is still a marvel of civic oversight and astute planning, but I digress.) In any case, this is a mere name change so all that stuff will stay in place. It will just no longer be under the Air Canada umbrella.
In a sense, one corporately sponsored arena name is as good as any other. Air Canada is a huge faceless Canadian corporation in the same way that Scotiabank is a huge faceless Canadian corporation. We owe them nothing, and if they want to pay some other huge faceless Canadian corporation a shit-ton of money to slap their name on some building face, who are we to say no? (Or anything at all — since a huge faceless Canadian corporation has little reason to listen to us in the slightest.) That’s just the way of the world. And now is probably the time to mention it could have been a lot worse (Shoppers Drug Mart Arena, anyone?).
But for Raptors fans, the words “Air Canada Centre” will forever by synonymous with most of the best basketball memories this city has ever experienced. The entire Vince Carter era played out in there (hence the nickname Air Canada Carter), the highs of the first ever playoff series victory, the Chris Bosh (and Andrea Bargnani) epochs came and went, and the team’s rebirth and ongoing evolution were all experienced, witnessed, and felt under the ACC name. And while the trend in professional sports has long been to get a naming sponsorship deal (which I get, since it is apparently easy, easy, easy money), at the very least the Air Canada Centre sounded cool and fit the idea of what awesome basketball should aspire to be. We were taking off together as a country!
So, much like the re-named Rogers Centre, we’ll start calling the ACC the Scotiabank Arena. But like that other stadium, the one forever known as the Skydome, we’ll still remember it as it was: the Air Canada Centre.
May the name rest in peace.
(Note: The original version of this story credited the info to Newstalk 1010, but it was actually broken by TSN’s Rick Westhead.)