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Varsity Stadium

Varsity Stadium

  Venue Resources  
Address 299 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S-1A1
Phone (416) 978-2011
Weather
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  The Facility  
Date Built 1898
(Athletic Grounds)
1911
(First Stadium)
2007
(Present Stadium)
Date of Renovation 1924
1950
Date Demolished 2002
Ownership
(Management)
University of Toronto
(University of Toronto)
Surface Polytan Ligaturf
Cost of Construction Unknown
Cost of Renovation C$61.7 Million
Capacity 500
(1898-1910)
10,500
(1911-1923)
16,000
(1924-1949)
21,739
(1950-2001)
1,500
(2003-2005)
5,000
(2007-Present)
Luxury Suites Unknown
Club Seats Unknown
  Other Facts  
Tenants Toronto Varsity Blues
(1898-Present)
Former Tenants Toronto Argonauts
(CFL) (1919-1958)
Vanier Cup
(CIS) (1965-1972)
(1976-1988)
Toronto Falcons
(NPSL/NASL) (1967-1968)
Toronto Metros-Croatia
(NASL) (1975-1978)
Toronto Blizzard
(NASL/APSL) (1979-1984)
(1993)
Toronto Lynx
(USL) (1997-2001)
Toronto Rifles
(Continental Football League)
(1966-1967)
Population Base 6,000,000
On Site Parking Unknown
Nearest Airport Lester B Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Wall of Honour #22 Dick Shatto
#31 Michael "Pinball" Clemons
55 Joe Krol
60 Danny Nykoluk

Championships 1st

1914
2nd

1921
3rd

1933
4th

1937
5th

1938
6th

1945
7th

1946
8th

1947
9th

1950
10th

1952


Sources: Mediaventures

Varsity Stadium

I have attached a history I've written about Varsity Stadium, perhaps the most historic football park on the continent. It served as the home of the Toronto Argonauts from 1911 to 1958, and has been the home of the University of Toronto Blues since 1898. Currently, the Stadium is at a high risk of demolition, something I am trying to stop. If you have any suggestions as to how I might be able to accomplish this, I would truly appreciate it if you could tell me. Enjoy the history.

Ian Speers

Varsity Stadium Facts and History

History

The first known Rugby games in Canada was played on November 9, 1861 at University of Toronto on the site of present day Queen's Park. Football has always been an important part of the U of T athletic programme, and the Varsity Blues have won the Yates, Grey and Vanier Cups all in the first year of the trophies' competition.

The corner of Bloor and Devonshire has long been the home of the football Blues. Before 1898, Blues games were held in King's College Circle. The sometimes-rowdy games drew many complaints, and the Blues were moved to a site slightly under 400 feet south of Bloor on Devonshire. The first game on this site was against Queen's on October 22, 1898. In 1901, the first cinder track was created, and a grandstand seating 400-500 people was constructed at a cost of $400. This grandstand stood until the renovation of 1950.

In 1911, the University of Toronto decided it was time to construct a permanent stadium for their football Blues. The result was the 7,200 seat Varsity Stadium, built on the south-east corner of Bloor and Devonshire where the current Stadium now stands. The building was primarily of wood, with a covered section seating 3,160 on the west side, and an open grandstand on the east side which contained a press box and seating for 3,500 spectators in five sections.

The Stadium was opened on September 30 of that year with an Old Boys game. The first league game was played between Varsity and McGill on October 14. Beginning in 1911, the Toronto Argonauts of the IRFU called Varsity home. The 1911 Grey Cup was the first of thirty to be held there, with U of T winning their third straight championship over the Argos before an overflow crowd of 13,687, a Grey Cup record that stood until 1936. During this first season, the Stadium was found to be slightly unstable, and the stands were reinforced in the off-season. While doing these repairs, four sections were added to the east side bleachers, increasing the capacity to slightly over 10,000.

By 1924, the Blues and Argonauts were drawing crowds well over the 10,000 seating capacity of the Stadium. (The Grey Cup was yet to become a truly national event, and so few championships drew capacity crowds.) The east side bleachers were pulled down to be replaced with the concrete grandstand that currently makes up most of the south and east side of the Stadium, designed by Professor T. R. Loudon and built by the Aylmer Construction company. This renovation increased capacity of the Stadium to 16,000, and created a new, forty foot press box. Two years later, the 4000 seat Varsity Arena was constructed to the east of the Stadium, also designed by Professor Loudon. By 1930, collapsible bleachers were built to be placed on the running track and north side of the Stadium to increase the capacity to 20,000.

In the late 1930s, there began to be talk of renovating the Stadium yet again, replacing the rotting old covered grandstand with something more presentable. Plans were made, but the second world war caused these to be delayed. November of 1948 saw the Grey Cup at Varsity once again, with the Calgary Stampeders against the Ottawa Rough Riders. It was this game that created the tradition of the Grey Cup as a national event, with Calgary fans shutting down the entire city with parades and celebration. Nothing like it had ever been seen before, and much effort has been spent trying to re-create this atmosphere since then.

Varsity finally got its much needed renovation in 1950, with the west grandstand replaced, and the east grandstand expanded to its modern configuration, bringing capacity in the grandstands to 21,739, and a maximum capacity approaching 27,000 with the use of collapsible bleachers. The press box was finally moved to the west side in this renovation. With all the money spent on Stadium improvements, the ownership refused to pay about $6,000 for a tarpaulin, and the result in the 1950 Grey Cup was nearly disastrous. With weather reporting still quite inaccurate, no one expected snow during the week of the Grey Cup. The day before the game, eight inches of snow fell on the field, and attempts to remove the substance tore up the turf. To further complicate things, the temperature began to rise before game time, completely thawing the field. Commonly known as the Mud Bowl, this game is one of the all time classic championship games, where the Argonauts defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 13-0 on a liquefied field. One player had to be rescued by an official from drowning in a mud puddle. In 1956, twelve light standards were erected around the field, giving Varsity the most powerful floodlighting system in Canada at the time. The final Grey Cup at Varsity was played in 1957, and the Argonauts played their last game there in 1958, before moving to CNE Stadium.

When the Vanier Cup was donated in 1965, it seemed only natural for it to be contested in this football shrine, this game being won by the Blues. The Vanier Cup continued to be played at Varsity until 1988 (except for 1973-75 which saw it played at CNE) when it was moved to the larger SkyDome. The Toronto Rifles of the Continental Football League played here for a few seasons, starting in 1966. Varsity also hosted the 1969 Rock 'n Roll Revival Concert, which resulted in a movie and John Lennon's Live Peace in Toronto record.

In 1976, Montreal hosted the Olympics. At least three stadia were required to hold the soccer qualifying games. Varsity was among these parks, and underwent minor renovations costing about $250,000 for this occasion. There have been many World Cup exhibition games staged at Varsity. If Varsity is a gem of a football stadium, it is equal to that as a soccer stadium, and offers superb sightlines for both sports, as well as an intimacy that is rare in modern stadia. The press box received the television broadcast booth in the early 1980s, bringing the Stadium to its present configuration.

After a thirty-eight year absence, the Argonauts returned toVarsity Stadium to hold their 1996 training camp. Varsity continues to be a useful stadium, being used for OUAA football, high school running events by the University of Toronto Schools, a few international soccer games, and summer athletic programmes. In spite of its appearance, Varsity Stadium is still one of the best football parks in North America, and has a history unequalled by any other sports facility in Canada. Even Maple Leaf Gardens and the Montreal Forum pale in this comparison.

Facts

Attendance Records

Blues- 26,764 - Western @ Varsity October 24, 1950. Overall- 27,425 - Eskimos 50, Alouettes 27 November 24, 1956 (Grey Cup Game)

Grey Cups at Varsity Stadium: 1911 to 1957

Year		Date		Winner		Loser		Attendance

1911    November 25    Varsity Blues 14    Argonauts 7   13,687
1914    December 5    Argonauts 14    Varsity Blues 2  10,500
1915    November 20   Hamilton Tigers 13   Toronto R&AA 7  2,868
1920    December 4      Varsity Blues 16        Argonauts 3             10,088
1921    December 3      Argonauts 23            Eskimos 0               9,558
1923    December 1      Queens G. G. 54         Roughriders 0           8,629
1924    November 29     Queen's G. G. 11        Tor. Balmy Beach 3      5,978
1926    December 4      Ottawa Senators 10      Varsity Blues 7         8,276
1927    November 26     Tor. Balmy Beach 9      Hamilton Tigers 6       13,676
1930    December 6      Tor. Balmy Beach 11     Roughriders 6           3,914
1934    November 24     Sarnia Imperials 20     Roughriders 12  	8,900
1936    December 5      Sarnia Imperials 26     Rough Riders 20         5,883
1937    December 11     Argonauts 4             Blue Bombers 3  	11,522
1938    December 10     Argonauts 30            Blue Bombers 7  	18,778
1940    November 30* 	Rough Riders 8     	Tor. Balmy Beach 2      4,993
1941    November 29     Blue Bombers 18         Rough Riders 16         19,065
1942    December 5      Tor. Hurricanes 8       Winnipeg RCAF 5         12,455
1943    November 27     Ham. Wildcats 23        Winnipeg RCAF 14        16,423
1945    December 1      Argonauts 35            Blue Bombers 0  	18,660
1946    November 30     Argonauts 28            Blue Bombers 6  	18,960
1947    November 29     Argonauts 10            Blue Bombers 9  	18,885
1948    November 27     Stampeders 12   	Rough Riders 7  	20,013
1949    November 26     Alouettes 28            Stampeders 15   	20,087
1950    November 25     Argonauts 13            Blue Bombers 0  	27,101
1951    November 24     Rough Riders 21         Roughriders 14  	27,341
1952    November 29     Argonauts 21            Eskimos 11              27,391
1953    November 28     Tiger-Cats 12           Blue Bombers 6  	27,313
1954    November 27     Eskimos 26              Alouettes 25            27,321
1956    November 24     Eskimos 50              Alouettes 27            27,425
1957    November 30     Tiger-Cats 32           Blue Bombers 7  	27,349

*- first game of a two game total point series.  Source: CFL  Records

Vanier Cups at Varsity Stadium: 1965 to 1988

Year            Winner         		Loser

1965    *       Toronto 14      	Alberta 7
1966    *       St. Francis Xavier 40   Waterloo Lutheran 14
1967            Alberta 10      	McMaster 9
1968            Queen's 42      	Waterloo Lutheran 14
1969            Manitoba 24     	McGill 15
1970            Manitoba 38     	Ottawa 11
1971            Western 15      	Alberta 14
1972            Alberta 20      	Waterloo Lutheran 7
1976            Western 29      	Acadia 13
1977            Western 48      	Acadia 15
1978            Queen's 16      	British Columbia 3
1979            Acadia 34       	Western 12
1980            Alberta 40      	Ottawa 21
1981            Acadia 18       	Alberta 12
1982            British Columbia 39     Western 14
1983            Calgary 31      	Queen's 21
1984            Guelph 22       	Mount Allison 13
1985            Calgary 25      	Western 6
1986            British Columbia 25     Western 23
1987            McGill 47       	British Columbia 11
1988            Calgary 52      	Saint Mary's 23

*- indicates invitational game                   Source: Vanier Cup  XXIX programme

Seating Capacity of Varsity Stadium: 1901 - 1996

1901: 400
1911: 7,200
1912: 10,000
1924: 16,000
1930: 20,000
1950: 21,739 (~27,000 with collapsible bleachers)

Compiled and written by Ian Speers, 1996.
Please send any comments or additions to Ian

Toronto Argonauts

Rosedale Field
Rosedale Field
1874-1897
Varsity Stadium
Varsity Stadium

1898-1907
Rosedale Field
Rosedale Field
1908-1915
Varsity Stadium
Varsity Stadium

1919-1958
Varsity Stadium
Varsity Stadium

1959-1988
Rogers Centre
Rogers Centre

1989-Present


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