TORONTO — PCL Construction is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday by reflecting on building the home of Canada’s first National Basketball Association (NBA) team, the Toronto Raptors, and a Canadian landmark, the Air Canada Centre.
In 1996, the NBA franchise purchased Canada Post’s vacant Toronto Postal Delivery Building with plans to revitalize the structure into the Raptors’ new home. In consultation with Heritage Toronto, the owners made an agreement with the City of Toronto to preserve the two principal building facades overlooking Bay Street and Lake Shore Boulevard, along with other significant decorative details and displays to reflect the building’s history, states a PCL release.
That same year, Larry Tanenbaum purchased the Raptors and Air Canada Centre, with a plan to make the arena home to the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs, bringing the two franchises together under the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Company (MLSE).
In 1997, PCL entered into a design-build contract to deliver the Raptors’ new home base and hit the ground running on an aggressive 24-month schedule with a delivery date of March 1, 1999.
According to a release, to facilitate integration of the Raptors and the Leafs under the same ownership group, a series of changes that amounted to roughly a 25 per cent increase of the remaining construction value were required, coming in at a cost of over $25 million.
Despite the additional scope of work and an eight-week labour strike, the Air Canada Centre reached substantial completion on Dec. 30, 1998, nine days ahead of schedule, the release states.
In all, the project scope included a 650,000-square-foot arena, a 15-storey tower and amenities including four restaurants, a galleria, many food and beverage concession stands and underground parking for 212 vehicles.
In its first week alone, the Air Canada Centre opened its doors to thousands of Canadians. Eighteen years, millions of guests and a facelift later, it still stands among the top entertainment venues in North America.