The building was designed by architectural firms Guernsey Architects and Baldwin & Franklin. This two-storey 68,000-square-foot facility houses the team’s front office as well as two full size basketball courts, locker rooms, training and medical facilities, and a player lounge with a full service kitchen and dining room.
Another feature of the OVO Athletic Centre is a “technologically advanced cognitive operations centre” powered by IBM Watson. Through interactive screens and mobile devices, Raptors management and operations professionals get a comprehensive view of all pertinent data, such as player information, team and league statistics, trade simulation and contract management. The data and associated insights are visualized through an interactive conference table-top and curved wall of dynamic touch screens within the OVO Athletic Centre and also on mobile devices.
The facility was originally named the BioSteel Centre after the corporate sponsor BioSteel Sports Nutrition Inc. In 2019 the name changed to the OVO Athletic Centre strengthening the partnership between Toronto rapper Drake and the Toronto Raptors.
In addition to the Raptors use of the OVO Athletic Centre, the facility is also used by community groups as well as featuring their own programming. The Welcome Toronto tournament is an invitational that is open exclusively to top tier Ontario Basketball Association teams. The event is an immersive brand experience that focuses on art, community and basketball.
An artwork installation on the exterior northeast corner of the OVO Athletic Centre features five abstract basketball hoops fabricated from bent steel pipe and rolled steel sheet coated in polyurethane in orange by artist Niall McClelland. McClelland explains his vision for the artwork: “The thinking behind the sculptures is create an impression of post-game detritus where a team of powerful players (ie. actual Raptors) tore through the court with the dominating strength of their play, leaving the court a twisted, snapped and wrangled ruin in their wake. The resulting effects of the sculptures will be eye catching, dynamic and interactive.”
For more information on the OVO Athletic Centre visit: NBA/Raptors
Sources: Wikipedia and NBA/Raptors
George W. Gouinlock (1861-1932) was born in Paris, Ontario. Gouinlock began his career in Toronto with the architectural firm of Kennedy and Holland in 1886. In 1888, he set up a practice with G.W. King, but from 1901 until 1921 Gouinlock practised alone.
In the early 1900s, Gouinlock was approached by Toronto City Council to redesign the west end of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (later known as the Canadian National Exhibition). Many of the buildings on the site at the time were wooden structures that were not meant to be permanent. Between 1902 and 1912 Gouinlock transformed the western end of the exhibition grounds with fifteen new structures set amidst broad boulevards and an open plaza. Gouinlock’s architectural plan was heavily influenced by the Beaux-Arts classical design he had encountered at Chicago’s World’s Columbia Exposition in 1893.
Unlike other Exhibition Place buildings by George W. Gouinlock, the Fire Hall and Police Station was not designed in the Beaux-Arts style. Instead, it has an eclectic architectural design featuring a clock tower, polychrome brick banding and a shallow pitched copper roof. The Fire Hall and Police Station has Arts and Crafts design elements. Its red brick exterior is designed in contrasting colours and textures and includes Tudor style detailing executed in wood and stucco. The building was also designed with wide entranceways, allowing easy access to the building for people and vehicles.
Although the Fire Hall and Police Station has undergone several planned alterations, such as one major restoration in 1981 to bring the building to Ontario Building Code standards as well as having modern, roll-up doors installed, the structure's basic character remains intact.
The Fire Hall and Police Station is divided into two sections. A detachment of the Toronto Police Services occupied a portion of the Fire Hall and Police Station year-round for a period of time from 2004 to 2013. In 2012, a detachment of Toronto Fire Services began to occupy the Fire Hall on a full time year round basis. Prior to 2012, Toronto Fire Services were only on site during the CNE. During the CNE Toronto Fire Services provide educational programming to visitors. In 2016, a detachment of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation division took up residence in a portion of the Fire Hall for use as administrative services.
Between fall 2018 and spring 2019, restoration work was undertaken on the Fire Hall clock tower. The work included exterior restoration, clock replacement and limited interior upgrades.
The Bandshell was designed by Craig & Madill Architects. Extensive research on other band shells, such as the Hollywood Bowl in the United States, influenced the design of the Bandshell. Art Deco features can be seen on the exterior of the shell that is decorated with stylized musical notes. The structure was built to accommodate a 100-piece band. The stage itself is 63 feet in width and 38 feet in depth and faces toward the north. The building includes a full basement which houses storerooms, a transformer room and dressing rooms. At the time it was built, the Bandshell featured the latest in acoustics and lighting. The ‘shell’ consists of eight semi-circular ‘louvres’ specifically engineered to achieve ideal acoustics. The Bandshell was built with 1,030 concealed lamps that illuminate the structure in red, green and blue. This lighting feature could be controlled with dimmers thus enhancing the musical performance on stage.
When it opened in 1936 the Bandshell featured the Kneller Hall Band, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the United States Navy Band amongst other noteworthy bands. The Bandshell became the place for visitors to congregate and listen to a variety of military bands and big bands from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Since its construction in 1936, the Bandshell has also served as the site of the official opening of the annual CNE. From the stage of the Bandshell, dignitaries such as William Lyon McKenzie King, Rear Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma and Vincent Massey have presided over opening day ceremonies. In more recent years the CNE opening day ceremonies have taken place at the Princes’ Gates.
Over the years the Bandshell continued to feature various musical entertainment. In the 1970s, band competitions, also known as “Battle of the Bands”, were held on the Bandshell stage. The Bandshell has also been the site of body building competitions, celebrity appearances and talent shows.
Today, the Bandshell forms part of the Bandshell Park that is host to various festivals and events throughout the year. The structure also continues to highlight a variety of musical talent during the annual CNE in August.
The Dufferin Gate was built in 1959 by Toronto architect Philip R. Brook in association with Design Craft, fountain designers. The modern proposal for a new western entrance was a shift away from the decorative style of the previous gate constructed in 1912 by architect George W. Gouinlock. On either side of the parabolic arch, single storey pavilions containing public washrooms and service areas are built of concrete, faced with red brick, and trimmed with green terrazzo. The spaces between the arch and the pavilions are covered by flat canopies whose supports rise through the roofs as flag standards, joining the rows of flagpoles flanking the buildings. Fountains with coloured lights at the base of the arch have been replaced with planters. The form of the structure predates the trio of concrete arches at Nathan Phillips Square built in 1965 and the internationally-recognized stainless steel Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri also built in 1965.
The western entrance to Exhibition Place has undergone several transformations. The first structure built was a wide wooden gate that stood over Dufferin Street when it was still a dirt road. Then, in 1912, architect George W. Gouinlock designed an elaborate structure featuring twin towers and decorative ironwork. The gate was intended to be a tribute to the exhibition that had become Canada’s largest annual fair. Until the Princes’ Gates were opened in 1927, Gouinlock’s Dufferin Gate was the principal entrance into the Exhibition grounds. It was demolished in the late 1950s to make way for the Gardiner Expressway. Today, the Dufferin Gate remains as one of the main entrances into Exhibition Place.
Source: Toronto Historical Board, "Property Research Summary," 1992.
The Horse Palace was designed and constructed in 1931 under an agreement between the City of Toronto, the Dominion of Canada and Province of Ontario to provide improved stable accommodation for horses. The building was designed by City of Toronto architect J.J. Woolnough. The exterior walls of the Horse Palace consist of brick and Queenston limestone masonry. The building is connected to the West Annex of the Coliseum by a canopy at ground level and a pedestrian passageway at the second floor level. The horse is symbolized throughout the building’s detailing with carvings of full bodied horses in different poses over the west entrance doors and sculptural reliefs of horse’s heads over the main entrances. Inside a large exercise ring was constructed in the centre of the building. The interior stables, embellished with decorative metal work, originally accommodated 1200 horses during the annual CNE Royal Horse Show and Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.*
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the City of Toronto offered Exhibition Park to the Canadian military. Between 1942 and 1946, the grounds of Exhibition Place were occupied by different areas of the Canadian military. The Canadian Army established sleeping quarters in the Horse Palace where soldiers bunked in horse stalls while waiting to be sent overseas.
The Horse Palace has been part of Exhibition Place’s environmental initiatives across the grounds. In 2006 solar panels were installed on the roof of the Horse Palace as part of the Photovoltaic (PV) Generation Plant Project. At that time, the 100 kilowatt plant was the largest single installation of its kind in Canada. Since then, PV generation has expanded to a 200 kW system atop the Horse Palace that generates 200,000 kW per year of pollution-free electricity. There are also two Green Roof pilot projects atop the Horse Palace which reduce heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), improve site storm water management and help to reduce the urban heat island effect and ultimately cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. As well the roof of the Horse Palace has been retrofitted with a cool roof. A cool roof consists of roofing material that can reflect the sun’s energy from the roof surface. Cool roofs reduce the heat transferred into the building, thereby reducing the urban heat island effect.
Since 1931, the Toronto Police have had a Mounted Unit temporarily stationed in the Horse Palace during the CNE and Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In 1968, however, a Mounted Unit took up residence in the Horse Palace on a year-round basis, while other Mounted Units were stationed in various other stables across the city. In the late 1990s, Toronto Police decided to bring all the mounted units together in one place and to this end the stables at Exhibition Place underwent major renovations. The Mounted Unit of the Toronto Police moved into its new home in the Horse Palace in 2000. This brought all of the Mounted Unit’s personnel together in one facility for the first time in 100 years.**
In June of 2003, the Riding Academy also took up residence in the Horse Palace. The Riding Academy offers professional riding instructions to novices and advanced-level students. Also available on site through the Exhibition Therapeutic Riding Academy (ExTRA) is therapeutic riding lessons for children and adults with physical and/or cognitive impairments.
*Barry Bryan Associates Limited, Building Assessment Study Horse Palace, 1992.
**Bill Wardle, The Mounted Squad. An Illustrated History of the Toronto Mounted Police, 1886-2000 (Markham, Ontario, 2002).
The Better Living Centre was designed by world renowned architectural firm of Marani, Morris and Allan. Marani, Morris and Allan were influenced by the European Exhibit Halls of the 1920s and 1930s that explored the integration of architecture and landscaping and modern functional design. The Better Living Centre has an irregular floorplan with a central courtyard. The brick exterior is enhanced with irregularly-placed full height glazed entrances. A flat roof appears to float above the curving walls of white glazed brick, separated by a thin band of clerestory windows. Terraces are set at varied heights on the four outer corners of the building. At the north wall a level terrace with a reflecting pool and fountain was installed.
The design by Marani, Morris and Allan also includes a large steel pylon with multicoloured plexiglass panels sitting atop the roof of the Better Living Centre. This tower has been described as “Mondrianesque” in that the blocks of coloured plexiglass and their layout resemble the work of artist Piet Mondrian. Mondrian was a Dutch artist who is primarily known for his paintings featuring a white background upon which he added a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and blocks of primary colours. The plexiglass panels used in the Better Living Centre tower are coloured black, blue, orange and red and appear to occupy random locations within the steel grid.
The original purpose of the Better Living Centre was to introduce new ranges of consumer goods to the baby boomer generation. For many people attending the CNE, the building hosted their first encounters with such technologies as colour television, transistor radios or home computers. It also became the place where people would expect to see the latest models of various consumer goods, ranging from vacuum cleaners to kitchen appliances. The building was designed to house permanent exhibits that would only be on display during the annual fair. In 1982 the permanent displays were removed and this allowed the building to be rented for various consumer shows and other events for part of the year. The Better Living Centre was not suitable for year round use as the building lacked proper heating and ventilation systems. More recently, the building has since been retrofitted to accommodate a variety of events throughout the year.
In 1997, displays of home furnishings moved from the Better Living Centre to the Enercare Centre (formerly the National Trade Centre). Since that time, the Better Living Centre has housed various shows and events such as the Toronto International Bicycle Show, the Artist Project and the Toronto Ski, Snowboard, and Travel Show. During the annual CNE, the building is home to the CNE Casino and the CNE Farm.
Source: Toronto Historical Board, "Property Research Summary," 1992.