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Exhibition Stadium

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Title: Exhibition Stadium  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of Grey Cup champions, 70th Grey Cup, Rogers Centre, 68th Grey Cup, 58th Grey Cup
Collection: 1959 Establishments in Ontario, 1999 Disestablishments in Ontario, Canadian Football League Venues, Defunct Baseball Venues in Canada, Defunct Canadian Football Venues, Defunct Major League Baseball Venues, Defunct Motorsport Venues in Canada, Defunct Professional Wrestling Venues, Defunct Soccer Venues in Canada, Defunct Sports Venues in Toronto, Motorsport Venues in Canada, Multi-Purpose Stadiums in Canada, Nascar Tracks, North American Soccer League (1968–84) Stadiums, Sports Venues Completed in 1959, Sports Venues Demolished in 1999, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto Blue Jays Stadiums
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Exhibition Stadium

Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
Exhibition Stadium
CNE Stadium
Exhibition Stadium in 1988
Location Lake Shore Blvd. W. & Ontario Dr.
Toronto, Ontario M6K 3C3
Owner City of Toronto
Capacity 20,679 (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 size Left 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)
Surface Grass (1959–1971)
AstroTurf (1972–1989)
Built 1948 (grandstand)
1959 (football bleachers)
1976 (football and baseball seats)
Opened August 5, 1959
Closed May 28, 1989
Demolished January 31, 1999
Construction cost $3 million (1948 north grandstand)[1]
$650,000 (1959 south bleachers)[1]
$17.5 million (1976 renovations)[2]
Architect G.W. Gouinlock (1907; previous structure)
Marani and Morris (1948)
Bill Sanford (1976)
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 and the site was 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 embedded 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 1
    • CNE Grandstand 1.1
    • Expansion for CFL football 1.2
    • Reconfiguration for baseball 1.3
      • Baseball problems 1.3.1
      • Football problems 1.3.2
    • Problems with the wind and cold 1.4
    • As a popular feeding ground for seagulls 1.5
    • 70th Grey Cup and replacement 1.6
      • Life following the opening of SkyDome 1.6.1
      • The "Mistake by the Lake" 1.6.2
  • New stadium 2
  • Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre 3
  • Facts and figures 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


CNE Grandstand

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 (known as CNE Grandstand) for $3 million in 1948.[4][5][6][7][8]

Expansion for CFL football

Exhibition Stadium with the 1959 expansion during the 47th Grey Cup.

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

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. Indeed, Blue Jays' President Paul Beeston noted Exhibition Stadium "wasn't just the worst stadium in baseball, it was the worst stadium in sports."[22]

Baseball problems

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] 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;[23]the Blue Jays were the only MLB team using such a stadium.

Football problems

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.[24] 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

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).

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

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

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).[25] 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.[26] 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

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 WWE), needing a new venue after a decision to discontinue events at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1995, held one card at the stadium on August 24, 1996 for a crowd of 21,211. The main event was Shawn Michaels vs. Goldust in a ladder match. [27]

The stadium was demolished in 1999 and the site is now the location of BMO Field and a parking lot. A few chairs from the stadium can be found on the southeast corner just north of the bridge 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"

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.[28][29]

New stadium

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.

Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre

For the 2015 Pan American Games and Parapan American Games, the old stadium footprint (parking lot) became the Chevrolet Beach Volleyball Centre. The temporary venue had bleachers and a playing area filled with 3000 metric tonnes of sand.[30] After the Pan American Games, the venue was torn down to allow for setup of rides and restore parking spaces for the 2015 Canadian National Exhibition opening on August 21 of the same year.

Facts and figures

  • On July 18, 1958, Richard Petty made the first of 1,184 starts in NASCAR Grand National (now the Sprint Cup) competition in a race at the grandstand, entitled the 1958 Jim Mideon 500.
  • The stadium was featured on a Season 4 Lynda Day and Jessica Walter), who were stranded in the city, sleeping on the benches in the covered north grandstand.
  • 1967 saw the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo 1967 perform 8 shows at the stadium to standing ovations every night. So popular with crowds at the stadium of 30,000 most nights, the 89-year-old never on Sunday taboo had to be waived to permit the Tattoo to put on a Sunday September 3rd performance to accommodate the extraordinary demand for tickets. John Holden, a CNE official stated, “It was breathtaking. You just can’t compare it with the like of anything that has come before it.” CNE General Manager Bert Powell stated, “We’ve never had anything like it — fabulous and fantastic. My phone is never quiet. I’m even getting professional critics and entertainers begging for tickets, and that’s the ultimate tribute.”
  • Soccer Bowl '81 was played at Exhibition Stadium.
  • In 1982, the 70th Grey Cup game held at the stadium had the largest number of television viewers in Canadian history, with 7,862,000. The record has since been broken.
  • The Jacksons performed three concerts at the stadium on October 5, 6 and 7, 1984 during their Victory Tour.
  • In 1985, the first Game 7 in the history of the American League Championship Series was played at the stadium. The Blue Jays lost to the Kansas City Royals, 6–2.
  • In August 1986, the stadium played host to the World Wrestling Federation's "Big Event" card in front of over 70,000 fans. The main event was then-World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan against Paul Orndorff. This event did not air on pay-per-view.
  • Madonna brought to the stadium her Who's That Girl World Tour on July 4, 1987 to a sold out crowd of 50,013 people.
  • Metallica and Guns N' Roses performed at the stadium as part of the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour on September 13, 1992, with Faith No More as the opening act.
  • Paul McCartney brought his New World Tour to the stadium on June 6, 1993. It would be his last show in Canada until April 2002.
Grey Cups at Exhibition Stadium
Game Date Winning team Score Losing team Attendance Lore
47th November 28, 1959 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 21–7 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 34,426
49th December 2, 1961 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 21–14 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 36,592
50th December 1–2, 1962 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28–27 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 32,655 "The Fog Bowl"
52nd November 28, 1964 BC Lions 34–24 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 32,655
53rd November 27, 1965 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 22–16 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 32,655 "The Wind Bowl"
56th November 30, 1968 Ottawa Rough Riders 24–21 Calgary Stampeders 33,185
58th November 28, 1970 Montreal Alouettes 23–10 Calgary Stampeders 32,669
61st November 25, 1973 Ottawa Rough Riders 22–18 Edmonton Eskimos 36,475
64th November 28, 1976 Ottawa Rough Riders 23–20 Saskatchewan Roughriders 53,389 "The Catch"
66th November 26, 1978 Edmonton Eskimos 20–13 Montreal Alouettes 54,695
68th November 23, 1980 Edmonton Eskimos 48–10 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 54,661
70th November 28, 1982 Edmonton Eskimos 32–16 Toronto Argonauts 54,741 "The Rain Bowl"

^ A. Game was suspended with 9:29 remaining in the fourth quarter due to extremely dense fog, and completed the next day.

Vanier Cups at Exhibition Stadium
Game Date Winning team Score Losing team Attendance
9th November 24, 1973 Saint Mary's Huskies 14–6 McGill Redmen 17,000
10th November 22, 1974 Western Ontario Mustangs 19–15 Toronto Varsity Blues 24,777
11th November 21, 1975 Ottawa Gee-Gees 14–9 Calgary Dinos 17,841
Major League Baseball Postseason Games at Exhibition Stadium
1985 American League Championship Series
Game Date Winning team Score Losing team Time Attendance
1 October 8, 1985 Toronto Blue Jays 6-1 Kansas City Royals 2:24 39,115[31]
2 October 9, 1985 Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 Kansas City Royals 3:39 34,029[32]
6 October 15, 1985 Kansas City Royals 5-3 Toronto Blue Jays 3:12 37,557[33]
7 October 16, 1985 Kansas City Royals 6-2 Toronto Blue Jays 2:49 32,084[34]
Kansas City won the series, 4–3

See also


  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.


  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".  
  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".  
  3. ^ "1985 CNE Grandstand Performers". Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  4. ^ "'To Cost Over 4 Million,' Asks Grandstand Probe".  
  5. ^ "Fireworks Over CNE: Council Would Let Ex Boss Grandstand, Field; Fiery Aldermen Object".  
  6. ^ Coleman, Jim (1948-09-29). "By Jim Coleman".  
  7. ^ Tumpane, Frank (1949-12-07). "Sweet reason".  
  8. ^ "Spring Rehabilitation: Offer to Improve CNE Sports Field For 1950 Grey Cup".  
  9. ^ Westall, Stanley (1960-08-05). "With $450,000 Stake the City couldn't lose, it was said, but it did".  
  10. ^ "CNE Stadium Muddle".  
  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.  
  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".  
  18. ^ MacCarl, Neil (1976-06-05). "CNE Stadium: $17.8 million home for baseball".  
  19. ^ Best, Michael (1977-07-18). "Blue Jays score in millions for Metro".  
  20. ^ Kirkland, Bruce (1977-07-02). "Forum music, CNE noise: Will they ever co-exist?".  
  21. ^ a b Lowry, Phillip (2005). Green Cathedrals. New York City: Walker & Company.  
  22. ^ Macleod, Robert (25 September 2015). "Paul Beeston heads for the bench". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  23. ^  
  24. ^ Illustration at: "Exhibition Stadium". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  25. ^ Canadian Football League, Canada.
  26. ^ Miller, David (October 7, 1984). Battle Is On for Right to Build Our Domed Stadium. Toronto Star. pg A1, A13.
  27. ^ "WWF House Show", Cagematch. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  28. ^ 'Mistake by the lake' no more, CBC. Accessed on August 5, 2009.
  29. ^ Toronto's dome turns 20, Toronto Star. Accessed on August 5, 2009.
  30. ^
  31. ^ "1985 ALCS Game 1 - Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009. 
  32. ^ "1985 ALCS Game 2 - Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009. 
  33. ^ "1985 ALCS Game 6 - Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009. 
  34. ^ "1985 ALCS Game 7 - Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays". Retrosheet. Retrieved September 13, 2009. 

External links

  • Virtual Walking tour of Exhibition Place
  • Overhead photo of Exhibition Stadium
  • Several photos including CNE racetrack configuration
  • Baseball field diagram
  • Football configuration
  • Video about Exhibition Stadium (YouTube)
Events and tenants
Preceded by
first ballpark
Home of the
Toronto Blue Jays

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Varsity Stadium
Home of the
Toronto Argonauts

Succeeded by
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