Varsity Stadium – Toronto’s Century-Old Athletic Grounds

1980/98 - Varsity Stadium, looking southeast
1980/98 – Varsity Stadium, looking southeast

The field at Varsity Stadium has been home to the University of Toronto’s football team, the Varsity Blues, for more than 120 years. The athletic grounds are located at ‪299 Bloor St W,‬ at the University of Toronto’s St George Campus.

The History of Varsity Stadium

In 1898, the University opened the field for athletics and in 1911, the first stadium was built. It has hosted the Varsity Blues for its entire history and was also home to the Toronto Argonauts until 1956 when they moved to Exhibition/CNE Stadium. Thirty Grey Cups have been played at Varsity Stadium. The largest attendance at the stadium was in 1956 during a Grey Cup match between Edmonton and Montreal. There were over 27,000 spectators when the stadium had a capacity of 21,700. Did you know that in 1909, the Grey Cup was donated by then Governor-General, Earl Grey?

1930's - Crowd at Varsity Stadium
1930’s – Crowd at Varsity Stadium

During its history, the U of T stadium has hosted over twenty Vanier Cup games, Track & Field Championships, soccer matches (including Olympic and professional), lacrosse, cricket, field hockey, flag football and ultimate frisbee along with military events. There were also many music concerts including the 1969 Toronto Rock’n’Roll Revival festival. This was where the infamous Alice Cooper chicken incident occurred.

In 2002, due to maintenance costs, the original stadium was demolished. The name was changed to Varsity Field until the stadium’s replacement opened in 2007. From 2003 to 2005, the track and field continued to be used with seating for 1500 spectators.

Today’s Varsity Centre

In 2007, the $21 million stadium reopened and is home to international, intercollegiate and intramural competitions. It features seating for 5,000, a state-of-the-art artificial playing field and a 400 m eight-lane internationally certified track. During the winter, there’s an air-supported dome that has a driving range inside. The athletic complex with the stadium, arena and pavilion is called Varsity Centre. For heritage purposes, the red brick wall from the original stadium (along Bloor St W) was kept.

Varsity Stadium Photos

1906/10 - Spectators at Varsity Field
1906/10 – Spectators at Varsity Field
1910 - Ground preparation for Varsity Stadium at University of Toronto (the building in the background is the former gym/arena)
1910 – Ground preparation for Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto (the building in the background is the former gym/arena)
1924 - Toronto Argos vs Ottawa Roughriders at Varsity Stadium (ball carrier is Harry Hutchingham for the Roughriders)
1924 – Toronto Argos vs Ottawa Roughriders at Varsity Stadium (ball carrier is Harry Hutchingham for the Roughriders)
1930's - Crowd at Varsity Stadium
1930’s – Crowd at Varsity Stadium
1930's - Actress Mary Pickford at a football kick-off at Varsity Stadium
1930’s – Actress Mary Pickford at a football kick-off at Varsity Stadium
1930's - Skating team of Sonja Henie & Stewart Reburn at Varsity Stadium rink
1930’s – Skating team of Sonja Henie & Stewart Reburn at Varsity Stadium rink
1939 - Police Games Track & Field at Varsity Stadium
1939 – Police Games Track & Field at Varsity Stadium
1980/98 - Varsity Stadium, looking southeast
1980/98 – Varsity Stadium, looking southeast
1980/98 - Varsity Stadium, looking northeast
1980/98 – Varsity Stadium, looking northeast
1980/98 - Varsity Stadium, looking south
1980/98 – Varsity Stadium, looking south
1980/98 - Varsity Stadium, looking east along Bloor St W
1980/98 – Varsity Stadium, looking east along Bloor St W
1993 - Looking southeast to Varsity Stadium
1993 – Looking southeast to Varsity Stadium
2020 - Track at Varsity Centre, looking east
2020 – Track at Varsity Centre, looking east
2020 - University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign and historic red brick wall
2020 – University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign and historic red brick wall
2020 - The Grey Cup heritage plaque
2020 – The Grey Cup heritage plaque
SOURCE