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Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
Exhibition stadium.jpg
Exhibition Stadium in 1992
Location Toronto, Ontario
Coordinates 43°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
Built 1948 (grandstand)
1959 (football seats)
1976 (football and baseball seats)
Opened 1959
Closed May 28, 1989
Demolished January 31, 1999
Owner City of Toronto
Surface Grass (1959-1975)
AstroTurf (1976-1989)
Construction cost $17.6 million (1976 baseball reconfiguration)
Capacity 33,150 (1959-1974 football)
41,890 (1975 football)
54,000 (1976-1988 football)
38,522 (1977 baseball)
43,737 (1978-1989 baseball)
Field dimensions 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)
Tenants
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) (1977-1989)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (1959-1988)
Vanier Cup (CIS) (1973-1975)

Canadian National Exhibition Stadium (more commonly known as Exhibition Stadium or 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 1977 to 1989. It also served as the home of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League from 1959-1988. The stadium hosted the Grey Cup game twelve times over a 24-year period.

Exhibition Stadium was actually the fourth stadium to be built on the site since 1879. The covered north-side grandstand was constructed in 1948, followed by a south bleacher section for football in 1959. When converted for football in 1959, the stadium seated 33,150.[1] The stadium was reconfigured again in the mid-1970s to allow the expansion Toronto Blue Jays to play there, with additional seating opposite the covered grandstand on the first base side and curving around to the third base side. It was the only major league stadium where the bleachers were covered but the main grandstand was not.

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 and opened in 2007.

Contents

History

Problems with hosting baseball

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.

Exhibition Stadium was problematic for hosting baseball. Like most multi-purpose stadiums, the outfield seats were far from the field. This was magnified by the fact that Canadian football fields are 30 yards longer, and considerably wider, than American football fields. Combined with the vaguely horseshoe-shape of the stadium, this resulted in many of the seats down the right field line and in the bleachers in right-centre being extremely far from the infield; they actually faced each other rather than the action. In fact, some seats were as far as 820 feet from home plate — the farthest such distance of any stadium ever used as a principal home field in the majors.

The best seats for baseball were the left-field bleachers, which offered the best view of the game. They were also the only section that offered protection from the elements. Ironically, they were the cheapest seats. The only other seats that offered a decent view of the game were directly behind the plate. Most other seats looked away from the field. Several bleacher seats in left-centre and several permanent seats down the right-field line were so far from the field that the Blue Jays didn't even sell them during the regular season.

Problems with the wind and cold

Relatively close to Lake Ontario, the stadium was often quite cold at the beginning and end of the 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. 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 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 winds. Two Rangers batters complained about dirt swirling in their eyes, and Blue Jays 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.

Because of the variable climate and the stadium's multiple tenants, in 1975 the original grass surface was replaced with AstroTurf.

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.

Discussions begin over replacing Exhibition Stadium

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. The decision to build a retractable roof stadium – the second in North America, and the first with rigid roof panels – along with engineering and cost questions meant that SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) was not completed until 1989. If not delayed, it would have been the first retractable roof in North America; Olympic Stadium in Montreal finally got its retractable roof to work in 1988. However, the Montreal design was problematic — soon after it was put into use it ripped on several occasions. In the months that followed, it was plagued by further rips and even leaks whenever it rained, bringing water down into the stadium. It was shut down for good in 1989, and replaced by a fixed roof in 1992. For this reason, SkyDome is sometimes said to have been the first fully-functioning retractable roof in North America.

Life following the opening of SkyDome

Exhibition Stadium lay mostly dormant over the decade following the opening of SkyDome, except for the occasional concert or minor sporting event. It 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"

Although not widely used while the stadium was in operation (given the well known references to Cleveland's Municipal Stadium), the term has been used more recently in reflection by Toronto media to refer to the now-demolished venue.[2][3]

New stadium

On October 26, 2005, the City of Toronto approved $69 million CAD to build 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, called BMO Field, also held the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup along with other cities in Canada.

Facts and figures

See also

References

  1. ^ Toronto Argonauts 1959 Fact Book, inside front cover.
  2. ^ 'Mistake by the lake' no more, CBC. Accessed on August 5, 2009.
  3. ^ Toronto's dome turns 20, Toronto Star. Accessed on August 5, 2009.

External links

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







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