Prime Minister and hockey aficionado Stephen Harper helped unveil Ryerson University’s new arena during a public appearance at the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Monday afternoon.

Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty joined the launch event at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, on Carleton Street near Yonge Street, shortly after 1 p.m.

"This arena was a historic hockey centre and cultural landmark for many years, and our government is proud to have invested in the redevelopment of the facility," Harper said in a statement.

"This project created over 600 jobs, spurred economic growth in Toronto and provides Ryerson University and the surrounding community with a world-class sports and recreation centre for generations to come."

The hockey rink inside the historic building was illuminated for the first time as part of Monday’s event.

Maple Leaf Gardens was last home to a hockey team when the Toronto Maple Leafs left the venue in 1999.

The building has since become home to a massive Loblaw grocery store and several other commercial properties on the second floor.

Ryerson’s athletic centre is currently under development on the upper two levels of the building.

The Mattamy Athletic Centre covers more than 150,000 square feet and more than doubles the downtown university’s athletic space. The arena will seat more than 2,600 spectators around a rink more than 50 feet above street level.

Aside from the skating rink, the athletic centre includes a basketball court, fitness centre and gym as well as studio space and food concessions.