The Maple Leafs need not be envious today when they lay their eyes on the expansive practice rink being built adjacent to the Prudential Center for the New Jersey Devils.
After all, it appears that finally, all systems are go on their own new practice facility, which will be located just a slap shot away from Lakeshore Lions Arena.
Delayed by a seemingly endless sea of bureaucracy over the past year or so, City Council signed off on the project this week, meaning the green light finally is on for construction to begin.
With the grounds already have been levelled for the proposed four ice-pad facility, workers are scheduled to begin piecing together the actual building in February or March. The involved parties, which include Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the Hockey Hall of Fame and Hockey Canada, are aiming to move in by Sept. 2009.
"To see a target date set, well, we're ecstatic," MLSEL vice-president Bob Hunter said last night. "All of our plans are already designed."
Because of the chaotic web of leases, financing agreements and other paperwork involved, the alleged startup date had been pushed back on numerous occasions.
"I've been on this project for four years, already," Hunter said. "When we first moved to Lakeshore Lions Arena, we thought it would be a two- or three-year undertaking. By the time all is said and done, it would have been eight."
A year ago, Hunter predicted shovels would dig into the ground by March 2007 with a completion date of '08.
The facility, which is expected to carry a final price tag in excess of $30 million, will have an Olympic-sized ice surface.
And while plans are in place for 1,000 seats to surround the rink, there will be room to expand the capacity by another 3,000.