In 1995, after the NBA expanded to Canada and the Raptors were established, it was decided that they needed a court in which to play. Around the same time, Maple Leafs Gardens - a 1930’s building that was starting to show its age - was deemed insufficient for the NHL team to continue playing there. Shortly after the Raptors’ owners began constructing their new arena, the company that then owned the Leafs (Maple Leafs Gardens, Limited) bought the Raptors and their partially completed stadium (which was being built upon the bones of the former Canada Post building). This would mean that the arena needed to be outfitted for hockey as well as basketball, incurring additional costs and delaying the opening date.
By the very end 1998, however, the arena was completed. In February the following year, the venue would be officially opened under the name of “Air Canada Centre.” On Feb 20th, 1999, the ACC hosted its very first hockey game (Leafs vs. Habs); and the next day, the first basketball game would take place: the Raptors vs. Vancouver Grizzlies (if you’re a millennial, apparently that was a thing). The day after that, ACC hosted its first concert: The Tragically Hip.
Now known as the Scotiabank Arena (the naming rights changed hands as of 2018), the venue has hosted 39 million fans over 2,600 events, and has established itself as the undisputed home of the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the biggest musical acts that come through Canada. In 2015, Scotiabank arena announced its “ICONS” program, which, according to their webpage, “commemorat[es] the venue’s rich entertainment history through artist recognition. The artists currently inducted into Scotiabank Arena ICONS include Bon Jovi (most sold-out shows), Russell Peters (best-selling comedian), The Tragically Hip (inaugural concert and 13 sold-out shows), U2 (most sold-out multi-show runs) and Madonna (top performing female artist).” The venue’s webpage goes on to say that the arena “has been recognized with more than 40 industry awards highlighting the venue’s security, accessibility, fan service, environmental commitment, sales and box office service.”
What matters to concertgoers, however, is that the venue boasts a “state-of-the-art BOSE sound system, worth more than $1-million, provid[ing] fans with exceptional sound quality” (scotiabankarena.com). While the actual sound mixing for a live show is done by the band’s sound engineer(s), it is reassuring to know that the physical hardware at a venue can support the best possible quality. The capacity of the arena, when used for concerts, is 19,800; but in addition to that figure, Scotiabank Arena offers 1,020 Club Seats, 65 Executive Suites, 32 Theatre Suites, and 16 Loge Suites. As an additional bonus, Rickards has set up, within the building, an in-house brewery which offers over-priced beer to countless sports and music fans alike.
However, as a way of giving something to the Toronto community rather than charging them for it, the Scotiabank Arena also provides entertainment for Torontonians who aren’t even in the arena: just outside the venue is an outdoor viewing area - known as Maple Leaf Square to hockey fans, and Jurassic Park to basketball fans - complete with a 62’ x 35’ (that’s feet, not inches) screen and 5,000-person capacity.
Practicality/accessibility-wise, the Scotiabank Arena is like any other widely-attended downtown Toronto location: it’s a pain to get there, park, and get home when using a car. But fortunately, the building is actually attached to Union Station - so between the GO Train and the TTC, concert-goers (from within the city and without) can get to and from the venue with relative efficiency and ease.