The Air Canada Centre is a multi-purpose arena located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is home to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, as well as the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League. The arena, popularly known as "the ACC" or "the Hangar" (the latter being given due to the relationship with the arena's airline sponsor, Air Canada), is the second busiest arena in North America, second only to Madison Square Garden in New York.
The plan to build the Air Canada Centre was started by the Toronto Raptors under its initial ownership group headed by Canadian businessman John Bitove. The building was to be designed for both hockey and basketball, but basketball was to be its foremost purpose. Sight lines from the arena's seating sections were designed to be suitable basketball's smaller court design. While the building was under construction, the Maple Leafs were also looking at building their own new arena at a different location and move from their current location of Maple Leaf Gardens. However, when Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment purchased the Raptors, and hence the under-construction Air Canada Centre, they decided to move their other subsidiary, the Maple Leafs, to the new arena and abandon plans to build a seperate, hockey-specific arena. To better incorporate the needs of the new hockey tennant, MLSE made some revisions to the plans while the construction was underway, including turning upper level seats in the west end of the arena into private boxes. The Air Canada Centre's groundbreaking was performed in March of 1997.
The site chosen for construction was once occupied by the Canada Post Delivery Building. The current building retained the striking Art Deco façades of the east (along Bay Street) and south (Lake Shore Boulevard) walls of that structure, but the rest of the building (facing Union Station) was removed to make room for the arena, through the process of façadism. The 15-storey tower on Bay Street stands at 55 metres, and provides connections in the atrium to Union Station, Bay Street, and York Street (via Bremner Boulevard).
Sports and EventsEdit
The first Maple Leafs home game took place on February 20, 1999 versus the Montreal Canadiens. This game was won by the Leafs 3-2 on an overtime goal by Steve Thomas. The facility also hosted the 2000 NHL All-Star Game and the championship game of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The first Raptors game took place the following night versus the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Toronto Rock also moved to the ACC from Maple Leaf Gardens for the 2001 NLL season. The Rock's first game was a 17-7 win over the Ottawa Rebel on December 21, 2000.
On October 3, 2003 the arena faced a blackout during the last two minutes of a Raptors pre-season game against the Greek club Panathinaikos Kae. The game was called a final, as the power was not restored in time, and Toronto already had a twenty point lead.
In addition to professional sporting events, the arena has alos hosted many World Wrestling Entertainment events over the years. In 2004 it hosted SummerSlam, a major WWE pay-per-view event. In 2006, it hosted the Unforgiven pay-per-view, which was highlighted by a headline match featuring Toronto native Edge (Adam Copeland) against John Cena. The arena has also hosted many Raw, SmackDown! and ECW television broadcasts for the WWE.
The first concert at Air Canada Centre was held on February 22, 1999 by Canadian band The Tragically Hip, which was a sold out affair. The ACC has held numerous concerts since to prominent stars such as Cher, George Michael, The Cure, Shania Twain, Sammi Cheng, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, Shakira, Van Halen, Evanescence, Celine Dion, Kiss, Aerosmith, Queen + Paul Rodgers, My Chemical Romance, Justin Timberlake, Dave Matthews Band, Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Blink 182, Guns N' Roses, Depeche Mode, The Who, David Bowie, Gwen Stefani, Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, U2, Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Simple Plan, Elton John, Oasis, Metallica, Megadeth, Heaven and Hell 2007 (Black Sabbath/Dio), Iron Maiden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, New Kids On The Block, Billy Talent, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Usher, Janet Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Pearl Jam, Hilary Duff, Avril Lavigne, John Mayer, Spice Girls, Rush, Roger Waters, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Green Day, Rappers Magee, Britney Spears, Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, System Of A Down, American Idol, Beyonce Knowles, Slipknot, The Eagles and Stevie Wonder.
Bon Jovi held the record for having played the most shows in the Air Canada Centre during one tour. On their 2007-2008 Lost Highway Tour, the band played five shows in Toronto. They were breaking their own earlier four-night record at the arena that tied with U2, the Spice Girls and The Police.
In late 2005, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment announced that they would be renovating the western side of the Air Canada Centre during the 2008 off-season, to connect it with the future Maple Leaf Square development. Maple Leaf Square is jointly owned by MLSE, Cadillac Fairview and Lantera Developments. The $500 million development will include two restaurants, Hotel Le Germain at Maple Leaf Square boutique hotel, extensive retail shopping including a 9,000 square foot Leafs, Raptors, and Toronto FC store, two 54-storey condominiums, a Longo's supermarket, a High-Definition broadcast studio, and a public square. It is slated for completion in 2009-10.
During the 2007 off-season summer MLSE installed a $4 million dollar dehumidifier to help create better ice conditions for the hockey players.
Just prior to the 2008-2009 NHL season, MLSE installed a new $7.8 million high definition video scoreboard. The centre-hung scoreboard has 17 screens and was made by Mitsubishi Electric. A new shot clock for basketball games was also installed into the scoreboard, creating a "see-through" effect during NBA games.