"Why do I have to be an example to your kid? You be an example for your own kid."
--Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher (in 1970 sounding like Charles Barkley)
Exhibition Stadium was a stadium that formerly stood at the
Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto, Ontario. Originally built
for Canadian football and other events, the stadium was reconfigured in
the mid-1970s, and served as the home of the Toronto Blue Jays Major
League Baseball team from 1977-1989. It also served as the home of the
Toronto Argonauts Canadian football team from 1959-1988. The stadium
hosted the Grey Cup game twelve times over a 24 year period.
Jays (MLB, 1977-1989)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL, 1959-1988)
Field - 330 ft
Left-Center - 375 ft
Center Field - 400 ft
Right-Center - 375 ft
Right Field - 330 ft
Backstop - 60 ft
While Major League baseball had already awarded the Canadian city of
Montreal a franchise for the 1969 season, officials had to be concerned
when the first regular season game every played at Exhibition (April
7,1977) also became the first (and, fortunately, only) game played on a
field covered with snow. The stadium, parts of which date back to the
Nineteenth century, was also the location of the only MLB game to be
called off due to wind (April 30, 1984).
Although stadiums had stood on the site since 1879, a massive
reconstruction that took place in the late 1950s gave us the stadium Blue
Jays fans sat in. The renovation resulted in a large grandstand on one
side of the field and temporary stands on the other, increasing the
capacity to 25,303.
The stadium was rebuilt again in the mid-Super70s to allow the
expansion Toronto Blue Jays to play at the Ex, building additional seating
opposite the large grandstand now in left field on the first base side and
curving around to the third base side. It was apparently the only major
league baseball stadium where the bleachers were covered but the main
grandstand was not.
Because of the large field needed for Canadian football and the vaguely
horseshoe-shape of the stadium, many of the seats down the right field
line and in the bleachers in right-center were extremely far from the
infield and faced each other rather than the action. Relatively close to
Lake Ontario, the stadium was often quite cold at the beginning and end of
the season. Because of the known problems with weather, Exhibition Stadium
was only intended to be a stop-gap measure until a domed stadium could be
built closer to the downtown. The decision to build a retractable roof
stadium - the first in North America - along with engineering and cost
questions meant that SkyDome
(now Rogers Centre) was not completed until 1989.
Exhibition Stadium lay mostly dormant over the following decade, except
for the occasional concert or minor sporting event. It was demolished in
1999 and the site is now a parking lot. A few chairs from the stadium can
be found on the northwest corner.
On October 26, 2005, the City of Toronto is expected to approve a $60
million (Canadian) to build a new 20,000 seat stadium in the same spot
where the old Stadium once was. The governments of Canada and Ontario will
combine for $35 million, with the City paying $9.8 million, and Maple Leaf
Sports & Entertainment paying the rest, plus the runoff coats. Maple
Leaf Sports & Entertainment will get the naming rights of the new
stadium, and will have a Major League Soccer team in the new Stadium by
2007 or 2008. The Stadium will also hold the 2007 FIFA World Youth
Championship along with other cities in Canada.
It is the only stadium in which a game was called for wind (April 30,
1984). Also the first game played here (April 7, 1977) was the only one
ever played in Major League Baseball with snow covering the entire field.
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