Varsity Stadium

Varsity Stadium

Infobox Stadium
stadium_name = Varsity Centre
nickname =

caption = photo by [ Ron Stamant]
location = Toronto, Ontario, Canada
coordinates =
broke_ground =
opened = 1898, 2007
renovated = 1924, 1950, 2006
expanded =
closed =
demolished = 2002 (original structure)
owner = University of Toronto
operator = University of Toronto
surface = Polytan Ligaturf
construction_cost = $61.7 million
architect = Diamond + Schmitt Architects Inc.
project_manager =
main_contractors =
former_names = Varsity Stadium, Varsity Field
tenants = Varsity Blues
Toronto Falcons (NPSL/NASL) (1967–1968)
Vanier Cup (CIS) (1965–1972, 1976–1988)
Toronto Metros-Croatia (NASL) (1975–1978)
Toronto Blizzard (NASL/APSL) (1979–1984, 1993)
Toronto Lynx (USL) (1997–2001)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (1898–1907, 1916–1924, 1925–1958)
seating_capacity = 500 (1898-1910)
10,500 (1911-1923)
16,000 (1924-1949, permanent seating)
21,739 (1950-2001, permanent seating)
1,500 (2003-2005)
5,000 (2007-date)
dimensions =

Varsity Stadium was a collegiate stadium, primarily used for Canadian football, but occasionally playing host to soccer and other events, that was situated on the grounds of the University of Toronto on Bloor Street West, at its intersection with Devonshire, opposite St. George Station, in Toronto, Ontario. The structure primarily known by that name in this location was built in 1924 with u-shaped seating and a brick wall against the north side. The structure was demolished in 2002. However, a previous stadium by that name was on the same site as early as 1898. The site that the former Varsity Stadium stood is now known as Varsity Field until further changes lead to the building of Varsity Stadium. The name Varsity Field was re-used from 2002 to 2006 during the period when the old stadium was demolished and the new stadium was being built.

Varsity Centre is the current collegiate stadium for the University of Toronto teams and students. It was built on the former site of Varsity Stadium and Varsity Field.


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.

After professional football moved to larger quarters in the 1960s, the stadium became less viable as it often failed to fill to its even modest capacity although it maintained a strong profile in the soccer community with the NASL's Toronto Blizzard making the 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 Varsity Blues generally played fewer than five dates a year, and towards the end of the stadium's life often failed to draw more than a few hundred fans.

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 facility continued to host international soccer matches; although the crowds were large, they were too rare an event to make the stadium viable. This problem was compounded by the university's decision to not maintain the combined south and east stand of the stadium essentially which turned the former twenty-two thousand seat facility into a nine-thousand-seat venue.

Minor league professional soccer team Toronto Lynx moved into the stadium in 1997, but was forced to move to Centennial Park Stadium due to the impending demolition of the historic facility.

During the 1976 Summer Olympics, Varsity Stadium hosted soccer 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.

Other events

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. Kiss played here as well in 1976.

Varsity Centre

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.

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. However, with FIFA approval of field turf, the Canadian Soccer Association now has more venues available, including Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa and BMO Field in Toronto. Also, Saputo Stadium, an all grass facility, was recently completed in Montreal.

New Facilities

Construction is ongoing on the new facility, to be completed in three phases. Called Varsity Centre, phase 1 was completed in December 2006, and now contains a permanent grandstand with a capacity of 5,000 seats on the eastern side, a 400m eight-lane track, artificial field turf, and a winter bubble enabling use during inclement weather. It is used by University of Toronto teams, by students and faculty, and also hosts outside events. This 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.


*John Whelan. [ Live Peace In Toronto 1969] . Retrieved July 15, 2005.

External links

* [ Varsity Centre]
* [ St. George Campus Map - University of Toronto, Office of Space Management]
* [ Polytan Ligaturf]

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