Scotiabank Arena turning 25 and getting a $350 million in renovations in Toronto

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Published October 11, 2023 at 8:19 am

Scotiabank Arena turning 25 and is getting $350 million renovations

As Scotiabank Arena approaches its 25th anniversary in February, the downtown venue is undergoing renovations worth more than $350 million.

The ongoing “Scotiabank Arena Venue Reimagination” project ranges from new or upgraded premium areas to revamped, enlarged concourses that use cutting-edge technology to accelerate food and drink purchases or just add to the decor.

Not to mention, a unique art collection.

Most of the renovations already completed are on the 200 suites level, which means you have to dig deep into your pockets to see them.

Membership in the new Mastercard Lounge, which includes all Maple Leaf and Raptor regular-season games plus the first round of playoffs as well as food and drink (but not alcohol), begins at $60,000. And a renovated 200 level private suite, which includes Leafs and Raptors tickets for all games for 12 people, typically comes in at more than $500,000 per year.

Phase 2, which start work after the upcoming NHL and NBA seasons are done, will focus mainly on the 100 main level concourse, complete with some striking high-tech touches.

A test version of the so-called “Just Walk Out” concession stand is already up and running on both the 100 and 300 level. It allows you to tap a credit card upon entry, grab the desired food and drink, and then exit, with the total automatically charged to the credit card thanks to AI technology from Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Staff will be on hand, with cameras tracking — and enabling — the transactions.

Nick Eaves, chief venues and operations officer at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, says the average transaction time at a normal walk-up concession stand is about 90 seconds. The “Just Walk Out” concept averages 25 to 30 seconds.

Phase 2 will also feature “Grab and Go” self-checkout concession stands. And there will still be traditional concession stops — about one quarter of those on offer — for those who want to deal with a human.

The plan calls for a “significant portion” of Phase 2 to be finished by the start of the 2024-25 NHL and NBA seasons, with some work to continue during those seasons.

Phase 2 includes updating and expanding the 100 level concourse — using “technology to tell the story,” Eaves said. LED tech across parts of the concourse ceiling will make for a digital canvas allowing for flashy visuals related to that evening’s entertainment to welcome fans as they enter at main gates.

The 100 level is being enlarged slightly, in part by pushing in washroom walls to reclaim some concourse space.

“We’ve learned over 25 years that we’ve got more interior space in the washroom than we need,” Eaves explained.

The reno also includes new “dwell space” along concourse walls, providing people a standup area where they can eat their food or down a drink.

The existing Real Sports store at the arena will be enlarged with a second retail space added, essentially doubling the retail footprint. Eaves says that will also offer more space to sell artist merchandise at concerts.

The renovations have resulted in changes to the 200 level, which originally featured 68 identical suites. After focus groups with suite-holders and looking at other arenas, the conclusion was there was demand for some 43 of those suites.

Of the rest, some 15-16 were converted into the Mastercard Lounge, in the southwest corner of the arena. The members-only area has 205 dedicated theatre-style seats, with a dining room attached.

The Mastercard Lounge joins the existing ScotiaClub as a premium dining area from where you can watch the game action. Other existing premium spaces (albeit without viewing), include the Hot Stove Lounge and the event-level Platinum Lounge and Air Canada Signature Club.

The remaining suites on the 200 level have been renovated with new arced ceilings, offering a larger window on the action, and new seats. There are also three new, bigger party suites that can be rented on a one-off basis each game.

The 200 level now also has 76 unique pieces of art on its corridor walls, featuring sports and entertainment images, via an open call to artists. Plus more than 50 photographs.

“The objective was for the storytelling, particularly the original art, to be as original and diverse as possible,” said Eaves.

So are the 34 artists, who include member of LGBTQ+ and Indigenous communities as well as Willo Downie (Gord Downie’s daughter), a partially blind artist (Riad), two MLSE employees and a former usher.

Their work is impressive, running the gamut from interpretations of Leaf greats to a reimagining of Kawhi Leonard’s iconic buzzer-beater for the Raptors over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinal.

The plan is to feature the art program elsewhere in the arena in the future.

Phase 2 also includes an all-new Tunnel Club on the event level, where members will see players make the walk from their locker-room to the ice or court while they dine in the arena’s “newest premium restaurant.”

BMO Field has a similar Tunnel Club for Toronto FC games, as does New York’s Madison Square Garden and Seattle’s Lumen Field, among other venues.

Phase 2 will also see a “refreshed Hot Stove restaurant” on the 200 Level with a dedicated entrance from the second floor of the Galleria and a redesigned Gate 6 broadcast studio.

Eventually all the in-bowl seats will be replaced. And on the 600 level, bridges will be built into the corners to connect the entire ring and create four new spaces.

The renovations will also include reconfiguring back-of-the-house space for artists when the arena hosts concerts.

The arena underwent another round of renovations in 2019, which produced a pedestrian bridge over Bay Street to ease the post-game flow of fans.

On the west side of the arena, a new improved video board was put up at Jurassic Park as well as smaller video screens and new digital Scotiabank signage.

Inside the arena, the Chairman’s Suite — a restaurant and premium bar/lounge area on the south side now known as the Air Canada Signature Club — was renovated. Outside, extra entrances for premium guests were added to ease getting in.

Across the street, the cavernous Real Sports Bar & Grill was gutted and revamped.

While the arena footprint cannot be changed, then MLSE-president and CEO Michael Friisdahl said at the time that MLSE will spend the money needed to keep the building “best in class.”

The changes in 2019 were part of a “wholesale renovation” of the building, according to Eaves. The final plan was approved in February 2020, only to be delayed due to the pandemic.

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