Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand – Hosting Legendary Concerts & Events

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Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand in Toronto
Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand in Toronto (1978/87 City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 363, Item 12)

Many of us remember the Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand from attending a concert or sporting event, but did you know there have been a total of four grandstands? Also known as the CNE Grandstand, the structures were built on the same site in 1878, 1895, 1907 and 1948.

The First Three Stadiums

While not much is known about the first stadium other than it had about 5,000 seats, the second was destroyed by fire in 1906. The third Exhibition Grandstand was built in 1907 and designed by GW Gouinlock. The 16,400-seat venue hosted extravagant historical shows with casts of hundreds, military pageants, car/motorcycle/horse races, and more. It featured the Reid-Belmont Restaurant along with Bill Beasley’s Casino. In 1946, the structure was also destroyed by fire. It happened in mere minutes, with winds from Lake Ontario fanning the flames.

The Fourth Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand

Completed in time for the 1948 CNE, the 4th Grandstand was built at the cost of about $3.4 million. The semi-bowl stadium was designed by architects Marani & Morris and was the first postwar Modernist building to be constructed at Exhibition Place. The north face of the then 23,500-seat stadium was made of red brick and limestone. It was 244 m or 800 ft long and 23 m or 75 ft high. To protect fans from rain and sun, the structure had a huge cantilever steel-truss roof supported by steel columns.

Also inside the Grandstand building was Stoodleigh Tavern & Restaurant. The restaurant had a few other cafeteria locations in the City and had been in business since the early 1900s. A landmark year for the CNE was 1968 because it was the first year The Ex was open on Sundays. Plus, Stoodleigh’s was the only restaurant on the property to be given a liquor licence.

Concerts – from The Jackson 5 & Osmonds to Rush & Pink Floyd

The Jackson 5 on stage at the Grandstand (1971 CNE Archives)

Over the years, the Exhibition Grandstand stage has hosted many Canadian and international entertainment legends, including:

  • The Jackson 5 in 1971, when Michael was 13 years old. The family performed again at the stadium for three nights in October 1984 to 50,000+ fans each night.
  • The Osmonds in 1971. The family band from Utah when Donny was also about 13 years of age.
  • April Wine in 1973. The Canadian band known for classic rock and pop ballads was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
  • Sonny & Cher in 1972. The then-husband-and-wife duo also performed a CNE concert in 1973 to 22,000 fans.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. in the 1980s. A talented singer, dancer and all-round entertainer with incredible style and stage presence.

Other performers who have played at the CNE include Rush, Celine Dion, Pink Floyd, Chicago, Neil Young, The Cars, Triumph, Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Hope, Burton Cummings and the Guess Who, Bobby Curtola, Helen Reddy, Rick Springfield and Neil Sedaka, to name just a few.

Exhibition Stadium was Home to Sports Teams

1969 - Argos football game, notice the Flyer roller coaster in the background
1969 – Argos football game, notice the Flyer roller coaster in the background (CNE Archives)

From 1959 until 1988, the stadium was home to the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. Toronto Blue Jays played their first home game here in April 1977. On the opening day of that first year, over 44,500 fans wrapped in their warmest coats watched the snowy ball game. The Jays last game was played at Exhibition Stadium in 1989. The Toronto Blizzard soccer team also called the stadium home from 1979 to 1983.

The Site Today

2020 - BMO Field at Exhibition Place
2020 – BMO Field at Exhibition Place

Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand were both demolished and imploded in 1999. It was replaced by BMO Field in 2007 at the cost of nearly $63 million to construct. It’s located where the northern portion of the former stadium and the Hockey Hall of Fame/Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame once stood. The Bank of Montreal Financial Group paid $10 million for naming rights. BMO Field at Exhibition Place has a seating capacity of just over 20,000 and is once again home to the Toronto Argonauts as well as Toronto FC and Canada Soccer.

On the west side of Parking Lot 2, just south of BMO Field, four engraved stone plaques mark the exact position of the former Exhibition Stadium baseball diamond.

Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand Photos

Between 1978 and 1987 - An aerial view of Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand. Today, stone plaques in Parking Lot 2 mark the exact position where the former stadium's baseball diamond used to be
Between 1978 and 1987 – An aerial view of Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand. Today, stone plaques in Parking Lot 2 mark the exact position where the former stadium’s baseball diamond used to be (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 363, Item 12)
September 24, 1977 – The Blue Jays played their first home game at Exhibition Stadium against the Chicago White Sox on April 7, 1977, and won 9 to 5. In 1989, the Toronto Blue Jays moved to the SkyDome (Rogers Centre). The archive photo shows the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox on September 24, 1977, playing at Exhibition Stadium
September 24, 1977 – The Blue Jays played their first home game at Exhibition Stadium against the Chicago White Sox on April 7, 1977, and won 9 to 5. In 1989, the Toronto Blue Jays moved to the SkyDome (Rogers Centre). The archive photo shows the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox on September 24, 1977, playing at Exhibition Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 95, Item 60)
1972 – Looking southwest from the observation deck at the Shell Oil Tower once at Exhibition Place towards the Midway rides and Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand
1972 – Looking southwest from the observation deck at the Shell Oil Tower once at Exhibition Place towards the Midway rides and Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 17)
Between 1978 and early 1980s – An aerial view looking southwest towards Exhibition grounds. Notice The Princes' Gates, Bulova Tower (originally Shell Oil Tower), the Flyer roller coaster, Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand and more
Between 1978 and early 1980s – An aerial view looking southwest towards Exhibition grounds. Notice The Princes’ Gates, Bulova Tower (originally Shell Oil Tower), the Flyer roller coaster, Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand and more (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 362, Item 8)
1980s - An aerial view looking northwest towards Ontario Place and Exhibition Place
1980s – An aerial view looking northwest towards Ontario Place and Exhibition Place (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 240, Item 36)
August 24, 1974 – An aerial view from Bulova Tower towards the Flyer, the CNE Midway (notice the CHUM Wild Cat and the Round-Up) and Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand
August 24, 1974 – An aerial view from Bulova Tower towards the Flyer, the CNE Midway (notice the CHUM Wild Cat and the Round-Up) and Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand (Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Association Archives)
2022 - A marker commemorating the location of the former Exhibition Stadium’s home plate is located on the west side of Lot 2 (just south of BMO Field) at Exhbition Place. The stadium was home to the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977 until 1989
2022 – A marker commemorating the location of the former Exhibition Stadium’s home plate is located on the west side of Lot 2 (just south of BMO Field) at Exhibition Place. The stadium was home to the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977 until 1989
2023 – An aerial view showing a portion of BMO Field and the location of the stone baseball diamond plaques in Lot 2 and BMO Field at Exhibition Place. Notice the footprint of the former Exhibition Stadium is still somewhat visible in the satellite photo
2023 – An aerial view showing a portion of BMO Field and the location of the stone baseball diamond plaques in Lot 2 and BMO Field at Exhibition Place. Notice the footprint of the former Exhibition Stadium is still somewhat visible in the satellite photo (Google Maps)
2022 – A granite bench commemorating the Toronto Blue Jays opening game on April 7, 1977, is located on the southeast side of the Food Building. It's one of 18 granite benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
2022 – A granite bench commemorating the Toronto Blue Jays opening game on April 7, 1977, is located on the southeast side of the Food Building. It’s one of 18 granite benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
1985 - Looking north towards the North Marina and Exhibition Stadium
1985 – Looking north towards the North Marina and Exhibition Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 9, ID 163)
1980s - The talented Sammy Davis Jr on Exhibition Stadium's stage during The Ex
1980s – The talented Sammy Davis Jr on Exhibition Stadium’s stage during The Ex (CNE Archives)
1976 - An aerial view of Exhibition Stadium and surrounding buildings at Exhibition Place. Notice the former Derby Racer building and the FLYER sign in the lower right corner
1976 – An aerial view of Exhibition Stadium and surrounding buildings at Exhibition Place. Notice the former Derby Racer building and the FLYER sign in the lower right corner (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 138, Item 13)
1955 - Looking northeast at Exhibition grounds next to the Grandstand. Notice Stoodleigh's Restaurant and the flags of the various provinces
1955 – Looking northeast at Exhibition grounds next to the Grandstand. Notice Stoodleigh’s Restaurant and the flags of the various provinces (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 536, Item 411)
1973 - April Wine performing on the Exhibition Grandstand stage. The band formed in Nova Scotia in 1969, and their hits include Sign of the Gypsy Queen and Just Between You and Me
1973 – April Wine performing on the Exhibition Grandstand stage. The band formed in Nova Scotia in 1969, and their hits include Sign of the Gypsy Queen and Just Between You and Me (CNE Archives)
1972 - The American pop and entertainment duo Sonny & Cher performing at the Grandstand
1972 – The American pop and entertainment duo Sonny & Cher performing at the Grandstand (CNE Archives)
1971 - The Jackson 5 on stage at the Grandstand
1971 – The Jackson 5 on stage at the Grandstand (CNE Archives)
1971 - The Osmonds at Exhibition Stadium
1971 – The Osmonds at Exhibition Stadium (CNE Archives)
1969 - Argos football game, notice the Flyer roller coaster in the background
1969 – Argos football game, notice the Flyer roller coaster in the background (CNE Archives)
2023 – A granite bench commemorating the Toronto Argonauts is located on the southeast side of the Food Building. It's one of 18 granite benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
2023 – A granite bench commemorating the Toronto Argonauts is located on the southeast side of the Food Building. It’s one of 18 granite benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
1960s - The Three Stooges wow the crowd in their battered old car in front of the Grandstand
1960s – The Three Stooges wow the crowd in their battered old car in front of the Grandstand (CNE Archives)
1963 – Having a rest near Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand
1963 – Having a rest near Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand (CNE Heritage)
1960s - A Track & Field event at Exhibition Stadium
1960s – A Track & Field event at Exhibition Stadium (CNE Archives)
1965 – Rehearsal for a Grandstand Spectacle at Exhibition Stadium
1965 – Rehearsal for a Grandstand Spectacle at Exhibition Stadium (CNE Heritage)
1959 - Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Exhibition Stadium
1959 – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at Exhibition Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4989)
September 6, 1958 -  Looking towards Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand. The structure had a huge cantilever steel-truss roof to protect fans from sun and rain
September 6, 1958 – Looking towards Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand. The structure had a huge cantilever steel-truss roof to protect fans from sun and rain (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 94, Item 10)
1955 - Boy Scouts Parade at Exhibition Place, passing by the north side of the Stadium
1955 – Boy Scouts Parade at Exhibition Place, passing by the north side of the Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 2389)
1950s - Ken McTaggart with a group near Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand
1950s – Ken McTaggart with a group near Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3581)
1955 - Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand
1955 – Roy Rogers and Dale Evans at Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand (CNE Archive)
1950 - Miss Toronto beauty contest at Exhibition Stadium
1950 – Miss Toronto beauty contest at Exhibition Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 1655)
July 21, 1951 – Ten finalists at the Miss Toronto Beauty Contest at Exhibition Stadium
July 21, 1951 – Ten finalists at the Miss Toronto Beauty Contest at Exhibition Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 1696)
1951 - Jimmy Durante and friends at Exhibition Stadium
1951 – Jimmy Durante and friends at Exhibition Stadium (CNE Archives)
November 1948 - Aerial view of the Coliseum, Electrical Building, Princes’ Gates, Automotive Building, Stanley Barracks, Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand, Manufacturers & Womens Buildings, Railways/Music Building, Food Products Building and Horse Palace
November 1948 – Aerial view of the Coliseum, Electrical Building, Princes’ Gates, Automotive Building, Stanley Barracks, Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand, Manufacturers & Womens Buildings, Railways/Music Building, Food Products Building and Horse Palace (Library and Archives Canada PA-052932)
1948 - Aerial view of Exhibition Stadium & Grandstands, Exhibition grounds and surrounding area. This was the Exhibition's fourth Grandstand, and the photo was taken the year it was constructed
1948 – Aerial view of Exhibition Stadium & Grandstands, Exhibition grounds and surrounding area. This was the Exhibition’s fourth Grandstand, and the photo was taken the year it was constructed (Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives)
Aug 1, 1948 - An aerial view of Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand the year the Grandstand was built. The stadium was designed by architects Marani & Morris and was the first postwar Modernist building to be constructed at Exhibition Place
Aug 1, 1948 – An aerial view of Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand the year the Grandstand was built. The stadium was designed by architects Marani & Morris and was the first postwar Modernist building to be constructed at Exhibition Place (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0111969F)
1948 - An aerial view looking east over Exhibition grounds. Notice the building that's today home to the Liberty Grand in the foreground and the Stadium & Grandstand near the top centre of the photo
1948 – An aerial view looking east over Exhibition grounds. Notice the building that’s today home to the Liberty Grand in the foreground and the Stadium & Grandstand near the top centre of the photo (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0112080F)
1948 - During construction of the fourth Exhibition Grandstand & Stadium. The Modernist style building was designed by architects Marani & Morris. The structure's north face was made of red brick and limestone
1948 – During construction of the fourth Exhibition Grandstand & Stadium. The Modernist style building was designed by architects Marani & Morris. The structure’s north face was made of red brick and limestone (Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives)
1948 - An aerial view looking northeast over Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand. This photo was taken during the year the stadium was built
1948 – An aerial view looking northeast over Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand. This photo was taken during the year the stadium was built (Toronto Public Library TSPA_0112079F)
1946 - A fire swept through the third Grandstand in 1946. It was built in 1907 and designed by architect GW Gouinlock. It replaced the second Grandstand, which had also been destroyed by fire
1946 – A fire swept through the third Grandstand in 1946. It was built in 1907 and designed by architect GW Gouinlock. It replaced the second Grandstand, which had also been destroyed by fire (CNE Archives)
Before 1946 - A view looking west towards an Armed Forces parade on the north side of the Exhibition's third Grandstand. Notice Reid-Belmont Restaurant and the Casino inside the Grandstand
Before 1946 – A view looking west towards an Armed Forces parade on the north side of the Exhibition’s third Grandstand. Notice Reid-Belmont Restaurant and the Casino inside the Grandstand (Courtesy of the Canadian National Exhibition Archives)
1937 - Crowds on the north side of the Exhibition's third Grandstand. Notice Bill Beasley's Casino inside the Grandstand
1937 – Crowds on the north side of the Exhibition’s third Grandstand. Notice Bill Beasley’s Casino inside the Grandstand (Library and Archives Canada a057071)
Circa 1926 – Spectators at the Exhibition Grandstand watching auto racing
Circa 1926 – Spectators at the Exhibition Grandstand watching auto racing (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1399)
1926 - Roman standing race on the Exhibition track
1926 – Roman standing race on the Exhibition track (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1948)
1913 to 1919 - Motor polo on the race track in front of the Exhibition Grandstand
1913 to 1919 – Motor polo on the race track in front of the Exhibition Grandstand (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 212)
1919 - Postcard of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds
1919 – Postcard of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds (Toronto Public Library PC_4190)
1920s – Daredevil and speed queen Miss Elfrieda Mais on the Exhibition race track
1920s – Daredevil and speed queen Miss Elfrieda Mais on the Exhibition race track (CNE Heritage)
1923 – An aerial view looking west towards the Midway, Racetrack and Grandstand at Exhibition grounds. Notice the mountain scenery in the centre of the racetrack. This area was called the Grand Spectacle and featured musicals, concerts and productions
1923 – An aerial view looking west towards the Midway, Racetrack and Grandstand at Exhibition grounds. Notice the mountain scenery in the centre of the racetrack. This area was called the Grand Spectacle and featured musicals, concerts and productions (CNE Heritage)
1911 - Motorcycle race on the track in front of the Exhibition's third Grandstand
1911 – Motorcycle race on the track in front of the Exhibition’s third Grandstand (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 267)
1910 - Crowds lining up to enter the Exhibition Grandstand. This was the third grandstand, and it seated 16,400 spectators. This grandstand was in existence from 1907 until it was destroyed by a fire in 1946
1910 – Crowds lining up to enter the Exhibition Grandstand. This was the third grandstand, and it seated 16,400 spectators. This grandstand was in existence from 1907 until it was destroyed by a fire in 1946 (CNE Archives)
1907 - Renowned architect GW Gouinlock designed the Exhibition's third Grandstand. The venue hosted extravagant historical shows, military pageants, car/motorcycle/horse races, and more
1907 – Renowned architect GW Gouinlock designed the Exhibition’s third Grandstand. The venue hosted extravagant historical shows, military pageants, car/motorcycle/horse races, and more (CNE Archives)
1907 - Crowds at the west entrance of Exhibition Grandstand. This was the Exhibition's third grandstand, and the photo was taken the year it was completed. General admission was 25¢ and the venue featured races, shows, military pageants and more
1907 – Crowds at the west entrance of Exhibition Grandstand. This was the Exhibition’s third grandstand, and the photo was taken the year it was completed. General admission was 25¢ and the venue featured races, shows, military pageants and more (CNE Heritage)
2023 – A granite bench commemorating the Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand is located on the north side of the Automotive Building. It's one of 18 granite benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
2023 – A granite bench commemorating the Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand is located on the north side of the Automotive Building. It’s one of 18 granite benches at Exhibition Place that were designed by Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise and installed in 2007
1906 - Fire ruins of the second Exhibition Grandstand
1906 – Fire ruins of the second Exhibition Grandstand (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 12)
Circa 1905 - Prize horses on the track in front of the Exhibition's second Grandstand. This grandstand seated 5,000 people
Circa 1905 – Prize horses on the track in front of the Exhibition’s second Grandstand. This grandstand seated 5,000 people (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 385)
2020 - Looking west towards BMO Field at Exhibition Place. Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand was taken down in 1999 and was replaced by BMO Field in 2007. It’s located where the northern portion of the former stadium and the Hockey Hall of Fame/Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame once stood
2020 – Looking west towards BMO Field at Exhibition Place. Exhibition Stadium & Grandstand was taken down in 1999 and was replaced by BMO Field in 2007. It’s located where the northern portion of the former stadium and the Hockey Hall of Fame/Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame once stood
2022 – The east side seating at Exhibition Place's BMO Field. Notice the CN Tower in the background on the left
2022 – The east side seating at Exhibition Place’s BMO Field. Notice the CN Tower in the background on the left
2022 – BMO Field at Exhibition Place has a seating capacity of just over 20,000 and is home to the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC
2022 – BMO Field at Exhibition Place has a seating capacity of just over 20,000 and is home to the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC
2022 – The entrance of the former Hockey Hall of Fame and the "Face-Off" mural by artist Ronald Satok are preserved at Gate 5 of BMO Field
2022 – The entrance of the former Hockey Hall of Fame and the “Face-Off” mural by artist Ronald Satok are preserved at Gate 5 of BMO Field
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