This beautiful arena opened in February, 1999, and was originally planned as a basketball
arena and a permanent home for the Raptors. Common sense eventually prevailed, and
rather than building two arenas for their teams, the design was modified to accommodate
both the Raptors and the Leafs.

Our greatest concern was how the Maple Leafs could ever duplicate the grace and musty
charm of one of the hallowed grounds of hockey - the venerable Gardens. Of course,
nothing will ever really replace Maple Leaf Gardens, but they did a great job trying.

Getting to the venue
The arena is located right downtown, at the foot of Bay Street and adjacent to Skydome.
One of the best ways to go to the arena is via the TTC subway system. Trains run every 4-5
minutes. You get off at the Union Station and from there it is a completely enclosed walk
through the train terminal and right into the Air Canada Centre Galleria pavilion. The
building is easily accessible with covered walkways to the GO Trains and the TTC subway
system. If you do drive, you can see the arena right along the Gardiner Expressway. Exit at
Yonge Street or Bay Street, and seek out parking anywhere there. Prices run CDN$20
outside the building but drop a bit once you walk further. Expect to pay at least CDN$10.

Outside the venue
Even though the ACC is right downtown, the venue is somewhat landlocked, with the
Gardiner Expressway abutting one side and the train station and its tracks on the other.
If you want to walk to the attractions and the downtown core - simply traverse the viaduct
and you are on Front St. And of course, on the corner of Front and Yonge is THE Hockey
Hall of Fame, a must see during your stay here.
If you walk the other direction (under the Gardiner), you will eventually find yourself at
Queens Quay and the bustling Toronto waterfront. Just a short walk west is Skydome and
the CN Tower. Yes, lots to do and see here!!!

The concourses
We have to mention the Galleria, which serves as the pavilion and the main entrance to
the Air Canada Centre. Here you will find the ticket offices, merchandise store, Fan Zone
interactive games, old Maple Leaf exhibits and a tribute to Poste Canada, the Canadian
postal workers. This site actually housed the main post office here, and the shell of the
building was kept and incorporated into the arena's design.

Once you walk through the turnstile, every where you look there is memorabilia of the
Leafs and the Raptors - old exhibits brought from the Gardens interspersed with new
material. Take the time to look at the murals and photographs  - they are spectacular.

There are several restaurants and bars right in the arena - Rickard's microbrewery on the
100 concourse, adjacent to a cool pub called "Lord Stanley's Mug", the Original Six bar
behind the blues in one end zone, and for club seat holders - the Air Canada Club
concourse, inlcuding a premium restaurant in the east end zone and also overloooking the
seating bowl.

The bowl
They sort of emulated the seating colors at the Gardens - golds, reds, blues, greens. They
also added "platinum" seats in the first few rows, which gives you access to a private and
exclusive lounge at ground level. In the center is an awesome four sided scoreboard with
four crystal clear Sony jumbotron video panels, and dot matrix information presented on a
circular board. Along the balcony are synchronized changable ad panels, interspersed with
dot matrix information boards on 4 sides. The press box here is named the "Foster Hewitt
Gondola" in honor of one of the greatest broadcasting legends in NHL history, who called
Leafs games a generation ago from the gondola at the Gardens.

Premium seating
In addition to the Air Canada Club seats and the platinum seating, one can find suites in
three different configurations - along the sidelines at the top of the 100 level, skysuites in
a gondola high above the rink, and three levels of suites in each end zone above the
upper level seating.

Concessions
A great variety of food awaits you here - the classic Canadian chains "Pizza-Pizza" and "Tim
Hortons" stands are everywhere, not to mention the "Good Humor" ice cream stand.
(Shouldn't it be "Good Humour"???) The unique items that caught our eye were a sushi
stand and a potato pancake stand, both in the east end zone at the 100 level.

Hat Tricks, Extra points, Penalties

Hat trick - to the Toronto Maple Leafs, for their SUPERIOR job in showcasing their teams
rich history with endless displays and memorabilia which transforms this building into a
museum. Not to be missed is the Esso "Memories and Dreams" display, half way up the
escalators to the upper level. Remarkable displays.

Hat trick - to the Toronto fans who support this Leafs team and have done so for a
generation, even surviving the Ballard years of futility and misery. This building is sold out
night after night, only a scant few seats are available for individual sale, and even the
Raptors are getting in on the act now, with the sell out sign posted almost all the time.

Extra point - "The Sprite Zone", which is 4 upper deck sections in the corner of the ACC,
offers seating in a non-alcohol section, and guest relations entertainers passing out prizes
and holding contests throughout the game. Best of all, the ticket price - CDN$12.50 for a
Raptors ticket. Folks, with the exchange we got a see an NBA game for $7.90. How good a
bargain is that!

Extra point - For our March, 2002 visit, the Leafs game took nearly 4 hours to complete,
what with a lengthy pregame ceremony, then a delay because an honoree was stricken
with a heart attack just before stepping onto the ice (we learned he did not make it), then
another delay when a Chris Gratton slapshot shattered the glass behind the net, and that
had to be cleaned up. Did we mention overtime???

Summary
Good job Toronto! A great venue and a great hockey experience, not to mention the
electric basketball crowds cheering on their beloved Raptors.. Definitely one of the
favorites on our list and a venue we look forward to visiting again and again. And best of
all, when you go to the Air Canada Centre, you are in the middle of one of the world's great
cities! Check out the nice hotels, restaurants, the attractions, the nightlife, shopping on
Yonge Street. Everything you would want is right here!

SCORING:
Architecture 7
Concessions 6
Scoreboard 7
Ushers 6
Fan Support 10
Location 7
Banners/history 8.5
Entertainment 6
Concourses/fan comfort 4.5
Bonus: Memories and Dreams Museum 2; Hockey Hall of Fame next door 2
Total: 66
Air Canada Centre
#7   




Air
Canada
Centre   




Toronto,
Ontario   




March 21,
1999




New York
Knicks
at
Toronto
Raptors




#29   




Air
Canada
Centre  




Toronto,
Ontario   




February 26,
2000




Buffalo
Sabres
at Toronto
Maple Leafs




Return visit
- March 2
and March
3, 2002