Exhibition Stadium

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Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
Exhibition Stadium
CNE Stadium
Exhibition Stadium 1988.jpg
Exhibition Stadium in 1988
LocationLake Shore Blvd. W. & Ontario Dr.
Toronto, Ontario M6K 3C3
Coordinates43°37′55″N 79°25′4″W / 43.63194°N 79.41778°W / 43.63194; -79.41778Coordinates: 43°37′55″N 79°25′4″W / 43.63194°N 79.41778°W / 43.63194; -79.41778
OwnerCity of Toronto
Capacity20,679 (1948)[1]
33,150 (1959–1974 football)
41,890 (1975 football)
54,741 (1976–1988 football)
38,522 (1977 baseball)
43,737 (1978–1989 baseball)
Field sizeLeft Field - 330 ft (101 m)
Left-Centre - 375 ft (114 m)
Centre Field - 400 ft (122 m)
Right-Centre - 375 ft (114 m)
Right Field - 330 ft (101 m)
Backstop - 60 ft (18 m)
SurfaceGrass (1959–1971)
AstroTurf (1972–1989)
Construction
Built1948 (grandstand)
1959 (football bleachers)
1976 (football and baseball seats)
OpenedAugust 5, 1959
ClosedMay 28, 1989
DemolishedJanuary 31, 1999
Construction cost$3 million (1948 north grandstand)[1]
$650,000 (1959 south bleachers)[1]
$17.5 million (1976 renovations)[2]
ArchitectG.W. Gouinlock (1907; previous structure)
Marani and Morris (1948)
Bill Sanford (1976)
Tenants
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) (1977–1989)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (1959–1988)
Vanier Cup (CIS) (1973–1975)
 
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Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
Exhibition Stadium
CNE Stadium
Exhibition Stadium 1988.jpg
Exhibition Stadium in 1988
LocationLake Shore Blvd. W. & Ontario Dr.
Toronto, Ontario M6K 3C3
Coordinates43°37′55″N 79°25′4″W / 43.63194°N 79.41778°W / 43.63194; -79.41778Coordinates: 43°37′55″N 79°25′4″W / 43.63194°N 79.41778°W / 43.63194; -79.41778
OwnerCity of Toronto
Capacity20,679 (1948)[1]
33,150 (1959–1974 football)
41,890 (1975 football)
54,741 (1976–1988 football)
38,522 (1977 baseball)
43,737 (1978–1989 baseball)
Field sizeLeft Field - 330 ft (101 m)
Left-Centre - 375 ft (114 m)
Centre Field - 400 ft (122 m)
Right-Centre - 375 ft (114 m)
Right Field - 330 ft (101 m)
Backstop - 60 ft (18 m)
SurfaceGrass (1959–1971)
AstroTurf (1972–1989)
Construction
Built1948 (grandstand)
1959 (football bleachers)
1976 (football and baseball seats)
OpenedAugust 5, 1959
ClosedMay 28, 1989
DemolishedJanuary 31, 1999
Construction cost$3 million (1948 north grandstand)[1]
$650,000 (1959 south bleachers)[1]
$17.5 million (1976 renovations)[2]
ArchitectG.W. Gouinlock (1907; previous structure)
Marani and Morris (1948)
Bill Sanford (1976)
Tenants
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) (1977–1989)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (1959–1988)
Vanier Cup (CIS) (1973–1975)

Canadian National Exhibition Stadium (commonly known as Exhibition Stadium and CNE Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium that formerly stood on the Exhibition Place grounds, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Originally built for Canadian football, the Canadian National Exhibition and other events, the stadium served as the home of the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball from 19771989. It also served as the home of the Toronto Argonauts, of the Canadian Football League, from 19591988. The stadium hosted the Grey Cup game twelve times over a 24-year period.

In 1999, the stadium was demolished, with the site being used for parking until 2006. BMO Field, a soccer-specific stadium for Toronto FC, was built on the site in 2007, roughly where the northern end of the covered grandstand once stood. The parking lot immediately south of BMO Field has plaques imbedded in the pavement where home plate and the other three bases were once located.

The grandstand (known as CNE Grandstand) was used extensively throughout the summer months for hosting concerts.[3]

History[edit]

The Grandstand[edit]

Exhibition Stadium was the fourth stadium to be built on its site since 1879.[1] When the original grandstand was lost due to a fire in 1906, it was quickly rebuilt.[1] A second fire destroyed the stadium in 1947, which led to the city constructing a covered north-side grandstand for $3 million in 1948.[4][5][6][7][8]

Expansion for CFL football[edit]

When the Toronto Argonauts moved from Varsity Stadium for the 1959 season, a smaller $650,000 bleacher section was added along the south sideline.[1][9][10] In this form the stadium seated 33,150.[11]

The inaugural game at the renovated Exhibition Stadium was an exhibition interleague game between the hometown Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL) on August 5, 1959. The game was the first time a NFL team played in Toronto.[12][13] It was also the first NFL–CFL exhibition match held since the establishment of the CFL in 1958, and marked the beginning of a three year, four game exhibition series between the leagues.

When the 58th Grey Cup was played at the stadium in 1970, Calgary Stampeders coach Jim Duncan described the condition of the natural-grass surface as "a disgrace."[14] In January 1972, Metropolitan Toronto Council voted 15–9 to spend $625,000 to install artificial turf. The vote passed despite five councilors changing their vote to oppose the motion, because the cost had increased from a previous estimate of $400,000.[15] Two months later, contracts totaling $475,000 were approved to install the turf, with work to be completed by June.[16]

Reconfiguration for baseball[edit]

In 1974 the city voted to reconfigure the stadium to make it compatible for baseball,[17] leading to the arrival of Major League Baseball in Toronto in 1977 in the form of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Originally planned to cost $15 million[17] before growing to $17.5 million, the renovations, which were funded by the city and province, added seating opposite to the covered grandstand on the first base side and curving around to the third base side.[1][2][18][19][20] Football capacity was increased from 33,000 to 55,000.[17] For baseball, it originally seated 38,522, but by the Blue Jays' second season it increased to 43,739.[21] However, only about 33,000 seats were used during the regular season (see below).

However, Exhibition Stadium, in its new form, was problematic both for hosting baseball and for football.

Baseball problems[edit]

A Toronto Blue Jays game during the 1977 season.

As at most multi-purpose stadiums, the lower boxes were set further back than comparable seats at baseball-only stadiums in order to accommodate the wider football field. Compared to U.S. stadiums, this was magnified by the fact that Canadian football fields are considerably larger than American football fields.[note 1] Many of the seats down the right field line and in right-centre were extremely far from the infield; they actually faced each other rather than the action. In fact, some seats were as far as 820 feet (250 m) from home plate — the greatest such distance of any stadium ever used as a principal home field in the major leagues.[21] These seats were among over 10,000 seats in centre field and down the right-field line that were not only far from the field, but did not even face the diamond. The Blue Jays only sold these seats during their appearance in the 1985 American League Championship Series because they were too far away to be of any use during the regular season. As the original grandstand was used for the outfield seats, these were the cheapest seats but were the only ones that offered protection from the elements;[22]the Blue Jays were the only MLB team using such a stadium.

Football problems[edit]

Because the full length of the third-base line had to be fitted between the north stand (the original grandstand) and the new south stand, they could no longer be parallel to each other. As a compromise between placements suitable for the two stands, the football field was rotated anticlockwise away from the north stand.[23] Thus the only seats as close to the field as before were those near the eastern end zone, and no seats had as good a view of the whole field as the centre-field seats before the conversion.

Problems with the wind and cold[edit]

A baseball field photographed from behind home plate, with an outfield fence and seating visible. The outfield is covered in snow, the infield has been cleared of snow, and some people are standing to the left.
April 7, 1977. A snow-covered field prior to the first Toronto Blue Jays game at Exhibition Stadium.

Relatively close to Lake Ontario, the stadium was often quite cold at the beginning and end of the baseball season. The first Blue Jays game played there on April 7, 1977 was the only major league game ever played with the field covered entirely by snow. The Blue Jays had to borrow Maple Leaf Gardens' Zamboni to clear off the field. Conditions at the stadium led to another odd incident that first year. On September 15, Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver pulled his team off the field because he felt the bricks holding down the bullpen tarps were a hazard to his players. This garnered a win by forfeit for the Jays. It remains the last time in major league baseball history — and the only time since 1914 — that a team deliberately forfeited a game (as opposed to having an umpire call a forfeiture due to unruly fan behaviour).

An April 30, 1984 game against the Texas Rangers was postponed due to 60 mph (97 km/h) winds. Prior to the game, Ranger manager Doug Rader named Jim Bibby as his starting pitcher, stating that "he's the heaviest man in the world, and thus will be unaffected by the wind." However, Bibby would never make it to the mound. Two Rangers batters complained about dirt swirling in their eyes, and Blue Jays starting pitcher Jim Clancy was blown off balance several times. The umpires stopped the game after only six pitches. After a 30-minute delay, the game was called off.

The stadium also occasionally had problems with fog, once causing a bizarre inside-the-park home run for Kelly Gruber, when an otherwise routine pop up was lost by the outfielders in the thick fog.

A scale model of stadium seating enclosed within a glass or plastic bubble which reflects an overhead light. There are nine columns of seats in the centre coloured red, two columns on each side of those coloured green, then one column on each side is blue, and one column on each side is grey. The seating is covered by an overhanging roof, and the structure has a concave arc shape.
Original architectural model of the fourth Exhibition Stadium's grandstand, from 1948.

As a popular feeding ground for seagulls[edit]

Due to its position next to the lake, and the food disposed by baseball and football fans, the stadium was a popular feeding ground for seagulls. New York Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield was arrested on August 4, 1983 for killing a seagull with a baseball. Winfield had just finished his warm-up exercises in the 5th inning and threw a ball to the ball boy, striking a seagull in the head. The seagull died, and some claimed that Winfield hit the bird on purpose, which prompted Yankees manager Billy Martin to state "They wouldn't say that if they'd seen the throws he'd been making all year. It's the first time he's hit the cutoff man". The charges were later dropped. Winfield would later play for the Blue Jays, winning a World Series with the club in 1992.

70th Grey Cup and replacement[edit]

Exhibition Stadium's fate was sealed during the 70th Grey Cup in 1982, popularly known as "the Rain Bowl" because it was played in a driving rainstorm that left most of the crowd drenched. Many of the seats were completely exposed to the elements, forcing thousands of fans to watch the game in the concession section. To make matters worse, the washrooms overflowed. In attendance that day was then-Ontario Premier Bill Davis, and the poor conditions were seen by over 7,862,000 television viewers in Canada (at the time the largest TV audience ever in Canada).[24] The following day, at a rally at Toronto City Hall, tens of thousands of people who were there to see the Toronto Argonauts began to chant, "We want a dome! We want a dome!" So too did others who began to discuss the possibility of an all-purpose, all-weather stadium.

Seven months later, in June 1983, Premier Davis formally announced that a three-person committee would look into the feasibility of building a domed stadium at Exhibition Place. The committee consisted of Paul Godfrey, Larry Grossman and former Ontario Hydro chairman Hugh Macaulay.[25] By 1983, officials with Metro Toronto, the Blue Jays and Argonauts agreed to abandon Exhibition Stadium once a domed stadium could be built closer to Toronto's downtown, which would eventually become SkyDome.

Life following the opening of SkyDome[edit]

The stadium exterior in 1992

Exhibition Stadium lay mostly dormant over the decade following the opening of SkyDome, except for the occasional concert or minor sporting event. The World Wrestling Federation, (now World Wrestling Entertainment) needing a new venue after a decision to discontinue traditional events at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1995, held one card there on August 24, 1996 for a crowd of 21,211. The main event was Shawn Michaels vs. Goldust in a ladder match.

The stadium was demolished in 1999 and the site became a parking lot. A few chairs from the stadium can be found on the southeast corner just north of the bridge to cross over to Ontario Place's main entrance. The remaining chairs were sold off to collectors during the dismantling of the stadium.

The "Mistake by the Lake"[edit]

Although not widely used while the stadium was in operation (given the well known references to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium), the term "Mistake by the Lake" has been used more recently in reflection by Toronto media to refer to the now-demolished venue.[26][27]

New stadium[edit]

Main article: BMO Field

On October 26, 2005, the City of Toronto approved $69 million CAD to build BMO Field, a new 20,000 seat stadium, in almost the same spot where the old stadium once was. The governments of Canada and Ontario combined for $35 million CAD, with the city paying $9.8 million CAD, and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment paying the rest, including any runoff costs. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment got the naming rights of the new stadium, and has a Major League Soccer team in the new stadium, named Toronto FC. The stadium also held the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup along with other cities in Canada.

Facts and figures[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Until the CFL end zones were reduced in 1986, the Canadian field was 40 yards (37 m) longer and 35 feet (11 m) wider.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Brehl, Robert (1989-05-23). "The noteworthy and not-so-worthy Ex Stadium has survived fires, storms and seagulls". Toronto Star. 
  2. ^ a b Brehl, Robert (1989-05-23). "Those were the days? Exhibition Stadium had it all: cold and rain and shivering fans. "Enough's enough," declared two sports nuts, vowing to build a dome". Toronto Star. 
  3. ^ "1985 CNE Grandstand Performers". Cnearchives.com. Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  4. ^ "'To Cost Over 4 Million,' Asks Grandstand Probe". Globe and Mail. 1948-09-21. 
  5. ^ "Fireworks Over CNE: Council Would Let Ex Boss Grandstand, Field; Fiery Aldermen Object". Globe and Mail. 1948-11-02. 
  6. ^ Coleman, Jim (1948-09-29). "By Jim Coleman". Globe and Mail. 
  7. ^ Tumpane, Frank (1949-12-07). "Sweet reason". Globe and Mail. 
  8. ^ "Spring Rehabilitation: Offer to Improve CNE Sports Field For 1950 Grey Cup". Globe and Mail. 1949-12-07. 
  9. ^ Westall, Stanley (1960-08-05). "With $450,000 Stake the City couldn't lose, it was said, but it did". Globe and Mail. 
  10. ^ "CNE Stadium Muddle". Globe and Mail. 1959-11-24. 
  11. ^ Toronto Argonauts 1959 Fact Book, inside front cover.
  12. ^ Teitel, Jay (1983). The Argo Bounce. Toronto, Ontario: Lester and Orpen Dennys. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0-88619-033-9. 
  13. ^ "Argos Smothered By Cardinals And Lose Norm Stoneburgh". Canadian Press. August 6, 1959. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "History - Grey Cup - 1970". Canadian Football League website. Canadian Football League. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  15. ^ "Sports to boom at CNE stadium with mod sod". Toronto Star. January 26, 1972. p. 14. 
  16. ^ "Estimate was $625,000: CNE artificial sod to cost $475,000". Toronto Star. March 29, 1972. p. 45. 
  17. ^ a b c Simpson, Jeff (1974-02-27). "Work could start this fall: Metro votes 23 to 6 to enlarge the CNE Stadium". Globe and Mail. 
  18. ^ MacCarl, Neil (1976-06-05). "CNE Stadium: $17.8 million home for baseball". Toronto Star. 
  19. ^ Best, Michael (1977-07-18). "Blue Jays score in millions for Metro". Toronto Star. 
  20. ^ Kirkland, Bruce (1977-07-02). "Forum music, CNE noise: Will they ever co-exist?". Toronto Star. 
  21. ^ a b Lowry, Phillip (2005). Green Cathedrals. New York City: Walker & Company. ISBN 0-8027-1562-1. 
  22. ^ Smith, Curt (2001). Storied Stadiums. New York City: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1187-6. 
  23. ^ Illustration at: "Exhibition Stadium". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  24. ^ Canadian Football League, Canada.
  25. ^ Miller, David (October 7, 1984). Battle Is On for Right to Build Our Domed Stadium. Toronto Star. pg A1, A13.
  26. ^ 'Mistake by the lake' no more, CBC. Accessed on August 5, 2009.
  27. ^ Toronto's dome turns 20, Toronto Star. Accessed on August 5, 2009.

External links[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by
first ballpark
Home of the
Toronto Blue Jays

1977–1989
Succeeded by
SkyDome
Preceded by
Varsity Stadium
Home of the
Toronto Argonauts

1959–1988
Succeeded by
SkyDome