American Football Database
Canadian National Exhibition Stadium
Exhibition Stadium
CNE Stadium
LocationLake Shore Blvd. W. & Ontario Dr.
Toronto, Ontario M6K 3C3
Coordinates43°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
Built1948 (grandstand)
1959 (football seats)
1976 (football and baseball seats)
OpenedAugust 5, 1959
ClosedMay 28, 1989
DemolishedJanuary 31, 1999
OwnerCity of Toronto
SurfaceGrass (1959–1971)
AstroTurf (1972–1989)
Construction cost$17.6 million (1976 baseball reconfiguration)
ArchitectG.W. Gouinlock (1907; previous structure)
Marani and Morris (1948)
Bill Sanford (1976)
Capacity33,150 (1959–1974 football)
41,890 (1975 football)
54,741 (1976–1988 football)
38,522 (1977 baseball)
43,737 (1978–1989 baseball)
Field dimensionsLeft 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)
Toronto Blue Jays (MLB) (1977–1989)
Toronto Argonauts (CFL) (1959–1988)
Vanier Cup (CIS) (1973–1975)

Canadian National Exhibition Stadium (commonly CNE Stadium or Exhibition 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 19771989. It also served as the home of the Toronto Argonauts, of the Canadian Football League, from 19591988. The stadium hosted the Grey Cup game twelve times over a 24-year period.

Exhibition Stadium was the fourth stadium to be built on its 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 outfield seats 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.


When the 58th Grey Cup was played at the stadium in 1970, Calgary Stampeders coach Jim Duncan described the condition of the natural-grass surface as "a disgrace."[2] In January 1972, Metropolitan Toronto Council voted 15–9 to spend $625,000 to install artificial turf. The vote passed despite five councilors changing their vote to oppose the motion, because the cost had increased from a previous estimate of $400,000.[3] Two months later, contracts totaling $475,000 were approved to install the turf, with work to be completed by June.[4]

Problems with hosting baseball

File:Blue Jays v White Sox 1977.jpg

A Toronto Blue Jays game during the 1977 season.

Exhibition Stadium was problematic for hosting baseball. Like most multi-purpose stadiums, the lower boxes were set further back than comparable seats at baseball-only stadiums. This was magnified by the fact that Canadian football fields are 30 yards longer, and considerably wider, than American football fields. Additionally, it was not a true multi-purpose stadium, but a football stadium that could convert into a baseball stadium. Due to the vaguely horseshoe-shape of the stadium after it was expanded for the Blue Jays, many of the seats down the right field line and in right-centre were 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.[5] Over 10,000 seats in centre field and down the right-field line were so far from the playing field (and did not even directly face the baseball diamond) that the Blue Jays did not even offer them for sale during the regular season.

The outfield seats were the only seats that offered protection from the elements. Ironically, they were the cheapest seats.

Problems with the wind and cold


April 7, 1977. A snow-covered field prior to the first Toronto Blue Jays game at Exhibition Stadium.

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. The Blue Jays had to borrow Maple Leaf Gardens' Zamboni to clear off the field. 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 — and the only time since 1914 — 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. Prior to the game, Ranger manager Doug Rader named Jim Bibby as his starting pitcher, stating that "he's the heaviest man in the world, and thus will be unaffected by the wind." However, Bibby would never make it to the mound. Two Rangers batters complained about dirt swirling in their eyes, and Blue Jays starting 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.

The stadium also occasionally had problems with fog, once causing a bizarre inside-the-park home run for Kelly Gruber, when an otherwise routine pop up was lost by the outfielders in the thick fog.

File:ArchitecturalModelOfExhibitionStadium Aug25-05.jpg

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.

70th Grey Cup and replacement

Exhibition Stadium's fate was sealed during the 70th Grey Cup in 1982, popularly known as "the Rain Bowl" because it was played in a driving rainstorm. The game was plagued by terrible weather that affected the patrons, who were viewing from stands that were not sheltered. Thousands spent most of the game in the concession section of the stadium, the crowd was drenched, and the washrooms were overflowing, which was on the whole a bad experience for the fans. In attendance that day was then-Ontario Premier Bill Davis, and the poor conditions were seen by over 7,862,000 television viewers in Canada (at the time the largest TV audience ever in Canada).[6] The following day, at a rally at Toronto City Hall, tens of thousands of people who were there to see the Toronto Argonauts began to chant, "We want a dome! We want a dome!" So too did others who began to discuss the possibility of an all-purpose, all-weather stadium.

Seven months later, in June 1983, Premier Davis formally announced that a three-person committee would look into the feasibility of building a domed stadium at Exhibition Place. The committee consisted of Paul Godfrey, Larry Grossman and former Ontario Hydro chairman Hugh Macaulay.[7] 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 new domed stadium, SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) retractable roof stadium — the second in North America, and the first with rigid roof panels — suffered engineering and cost delays and 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. The World Wrestling Federation, (now World Wrestling Entertainment) needing a new venue after a decision to discontinue traditional events at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1995, held one card there on August 24, 1996 for a crowd of 21,211. The main event was Shawn Michaels vs. Goldust in a ladder match.

The stadium 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 "Mistake by the Lake" has been used more recently in reflection by Toronto media to refer to the now-demolished venue.[8][9]

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

  • On July 18, 1958, Richard Petty made the first of 1,184 starts in NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) competition in a race at the grandstand, entitled the 1958 Jim Mideon 500.
  • The stadium was featured on a Season 4 Route 66 episode titled "A Long Way from St. Louie" which first aired on December 6, 1963. While on a helicopter tour over downtown Toronto, Tod Stiles and Linc Case (Martin Milner and Glenn Corbett, respectively) spot a quintet of girl musicians (two were played by Lynda Day and Jessica Walter), who were stranded in the city, sleeping on the benches in the covered north grandstand.
  • In 1982, the 70th Grey Cup game held at the stadium had the largest number of television viewers in Canadian history, with 7,862,000. The record has since been broken.
  • The Jacksons performed three concerts at the stadium on October 5, 6 and 7, 1984 during their Victory Tour.
  • In 1985, the first Game 7 in the history of the American League Championship Series was played at the stadium. The Blue Jays lost to the Kansas City Royals, 6–2.
  • Metallica and Guns N' Roses brought the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour on September 13, 1992, with Faith No More as their opening act.

See also


  1. Toronto Argonauts 1959 Fact Book, inside front cover.
  2. "History - Grey Cup - 1970". Canadian Football League website. Canadian Football League. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  3. "Sports to boom at CNE stadium with mod sod". Toronto Star: p. 14. January 26, 1972.
  4. "Estimate was $625,000: CNE artificial sod to cost $475,000". Toronto Star: p. 45. March 29, 1972.
  5. Lowry, Phillip (2005). Green Cathedrals. New York City: Walker & Company. ISBN 0-8027-1562-1.
  6. Canadian Football League, Canada.
  7. Miller, David (October 7, 1984). Battle Is On for Right to Build Our Domed Stadium. Toronto Star. pg A1, A13.
  8. 'Mistake by the lake' no more, CBC. Accessed on August 5, 2009.
  9. Toronto's dome turns 20, Toronto Star. Accessed on August 5, 2009.

External links

Events and tenants
Preceded by
first ballpark
Home of the
Toronto Blue Jays

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Varsity Stadium
Home of the
Toronto Argonauts

Succeeded by