|Location||299 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Opened||1898 (athletic grounds)
1911 (first stadium)
2007 (present stadium)
|Demolished||2002 (first stadium)|
|Owner||University of Toronto|
|Operator||University of Toronto|
|Construction cost||$61.7 million|
|Varsity Blues (1898–present)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (1898–1907, 1916–24, 1925–58)
Vanier Cup (CIS) (1965–72, 1976–88)
Toronto City (USA) (1967)
Toronto Falcons (NPSL/NASL) (1967–68)
Toronto Metros-Croatia (NASL) (1975–78)
Toronto Blizzard (NASL/APSL) (1979–84, 1993)
Toronto Lynx (USL) (1997–2001)
Toronto Rifles (Continental Football League) (1966-1967)
FIFA U-16 World Championship (1987)
Parapan American Games (2015)
Varsity Stadium is a collegiate football stadium that is home to the Varsity Blues, the athletic teams of the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. While the present structure was built in 2007, it is in fact the third major incarnation of the stadium that has occupied the same site since 1898. Varsity Stadium is also a former home of the Toronto Argonauts, and has previously hosted the Grey Cup, the Vanier Cup, and the soccer semifinals of the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Varsity Stadium has for its entire history been host to the University of Toronto's collegiate Canadian football team, the Varsity Blues. However it was, until the opening of Exhibition Stadium in 1959, the home of the Canadian professional football team the Toronto Argonauts. It still holds the record for the number of times any stadium has hosted the Canadian professional football championship game, the Grey Cup. Capacity of the stadium has varied with time, but peaked at about 22,000 in the 1950s although, with the use of temporary bleachers, a record crowd of 27,425 watched the Edmonton Eskimos defeat the Montreal Alouettes 50-27 in the 1956 Grey Cup final.
During the 1976 Summer Olympics, Varsity Stadium hosted football games, and was the site of the semi-final game between Brazil and Poland. Perhaps the most famous Canadian football game played in the Stadium was the 1950 Mud Bowl for the Grey Cup championship.
In soccer, the NASL's Toronto Blizzard made Varsity Stadium its home for the 1984 season. In the summer of 1986, Varsity Stadium played host to the World Lacrosse Championships, a tournament featuring the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. The US defeated Canada in the final, 18-9.
The Toronto Blizzard returned to Varsity in 1987 as part of the Canadian Soccer League but would move to the smaller Centennial Park Stadium as a cost-cutting move. They returned in 1993 as a member of the American Professional Soccer League but again were forced to move, this time to Lamport Stadium, again due to financial difficulties. Varsity Stadium continued to host the Canadian intercollegiate championship, the Vanier Cup, but that too moved to larger quarters such as Skydome (now known as Rogers Centre) as the popularity of the collegiate championship grew.
The Canadian national team hosted Iran for a friendly match at the stadium in August 1997. A near-capacity crowd of over 15,000 attended—primarily Iranians from across the continent. It was the first visit for Iran's team in North America since before the Islamic Revolution, when its Olympic soccer team played at the 1976 Summer Games which coincidentally staged matches at Varsity Stadium.
The stadium was demolished over the summer of 2002 after the cost of maintaining the large facility was far more than it generated in revenue. At that time, several structural sections of the stadium were being held up by temporary repairs, and the future integrity of the structure was in question. The field and track were retained after the demolition. From 2003 through 2005, temporary seating of about 1,500 was installed to permit the use of the field for intercollegiate games. The name Varsity Field was used from 2002 to 2006 during the period when the old stadium was demolished and the new stadium was being built.
A plan to build a new 25,000 seat multi-purpose stadium on the site in 2005 was voted down by management of the University of Toronto due to concerns over its cost. The facility was then planned to be built on the grounds of York University but that too failed. At the time of its demolition, Varsity Stadium was the second largest capacity stadium in Canada with a grass field, after Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. As FIFA rules require international matches to be played on natural surfaces, the loss of Varsity as a venue resulted in financial difficulties to Canada's national soccer team in Canada's largest market as there were no large grass field stadiums remaining in Toronto, until BMO Field was converted to grass from field turf in 2010.
The stadium has also been host to several concerts most notably the 1969 Rock 'n Roll Revival Concert, which Rolling Stone once called the second most important event in rock & roll history and resulted in a documentary movie, Sweet Toronto, and John Lennon's Live Peace In Toronto album. The performers were The Doors, Plastic Ono Band (Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Eric Clapton, with Klaus Voormann and Alan White), Bo Diddley, Chicago Transit Authority (later renamed "Chicago"), Tony Joe White, Alice Cooper, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, Gene Vincent, Junior Walker & the All Stars, Little Richard, Doug Kershaw, Screaming Lord Sutch, Nucleus, Milkwood, and Whiskey Howl.
Facilities and features built in the first phase of the stadium's reconstruction include an IAAF Class II 400m eight-lane track, artificial field turf (FIFA 2 Star rated surface by Polytan), and a winter bubble enabling use during inclement weather. The multi-use capability was one of the main reasons that the plan was passed by the governing council, as opposed to the 25,000 seat stadium. Compared to the old Varsity Stadium, the seating is closer to Varsity Arena, almost making the two structures one conjoined complex. Part of the red brick wall along Bloor Street was maintained for historic purposes, but the new facility is much more open and visible from the streets overall. The new facilities are designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects.
- John Whelan. Live Peace In Toronto 1969. Retrieved July 15, 2005.
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