Since opening in 2012, the Mattamy Athletic Centre has had to balance two roles.
Owned by Ryerson and paid for in part with $20 million in student money, the building has a private obligation to the university and its members. But, also splitting the bill is the federal government, whose $20 million contribution means the MAC has a second duty to serve the general public.
The MAC is juggling two very different schedules, but its administrators are happy to oblige with both private and public agendas.
“We’re always going to run programs [out of the MAC] that serve the community,” said Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics. “That’s the reputation of the university, we’re a city-building university.”
Many of the MAC’s facilities, like the Coca-Cola Court, BLADE Skating Treadmill, and its various conference rooms are available to be rented out both to students and to the community. The entire facility can also be rented out for larger scale events taking place over multiple days.
As expected, Joseph said that scheduling conflicts at the MAC are frequent, but the department’s dedication to varsity athletics allow them to quickly handle the issues.
“We don’t displace games. Games and playoffs are always our priority,” he said, noting there are some cases where – if in the university’s best interest – a practice could be cancelled for an event.
“If Justin Bieber comes in and says ‘I want to rent this place for $20,000 for the day,’ hockey practice may not happen,” said Joseph.
The Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association doesn’t have the ability to book the MAC whenever they want. But the league, which has rented ice at the MAC since the building first opened, is happy with how accommodating the facility has been.
“It’s a phenomenal facility,” said Jennifer Smith, president of the TLGHA. “We put all different kinds of programming on the ice there to try and give all members an opportunity to experience it.”
Smith says that it’s a big deal for players on visiting teams, and even more so for the parents of those players, when they come into the MAC and see the memorabilia on display.
Despite the allure of playing in the former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Smith says the rental fees are in line with other facilities.
“Because the facility is so outstanding, I think the assumption is that it’s prohibitively expensive, and that’s not the case,” Smith said.
The TLGHA, whose membership is over 1,600, rents ice at 31 facilities, but Smith says the ice at the MAC is “among the nicest ice we rent.”
Only once in the MAC’s history did a Rams game get bumped, said Joseph, when the facility hosted the provincial Liberal leadership convention in January 2013.
Joseph recognizes that the university “could make a lot more money” renting out the MAC, but instead has chosen to focus on fostering the programs for the university, like the Sport Media program and exams, which are being moved from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this winter.
Smith commends the athletic department for being able to manage such a busy, in-demand space.
“There’s no question that [the MAC] provides an amazing home for [Ryerson’s] recreation and athletic programming,” Smith said. “But my sense has always been that there’s… a ton of opportunity for community access as well,” she said.
“I think the school has struck a very good balance between the two.”