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.
Varsity Stadium Facts and 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.
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
1950: 21,739 (~27,000 with collapsible bleachers)
Compiled and written by Ian Speers, 1996.
Please send any comments or additions to Ian