Varsity Stadium – Toronto’s Century-Old Athletic Grounds

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Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view looking southeast toward Varsity Stadium
Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view looking southeast toward Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 29)

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?

1930s – Looking southeast towards the crowd at Varsity Stadium. The buildings include the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (The Observatory), Varsity Stadium, Varsity Arena and McMaster Hall, today the Royal Conservatory of Music
1930s – Looking southeast towards the crowd at Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1714)

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 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, an air-supported dome has a driving range inside. The athletic complex with the stadium, arena and pavilion is called Varsity Centre. The red brick wall from the original stadium (along Bloor St W) was kept for heritage purposes.

Varsity Stadium Photos

Between 1906 and 1910 - Spectators at the north end of Varsity Field. The University of Toronto opened the field for athletics in 1898. Notice the homes that once lined Bloor St W
Between 1906 and 1910 – Spectators at the north end of Varsity Field. The University of Toronto opened the field for athletics in 1898. Notice the homes that once lined Bloor St W (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 528)
2021 – Looking northeast along Bloor St W from Varsity Field. Notice the red brick wall from the original Varsity Stadium
2021 – Looking northeast along Bloor St W from Varsity Field. Notice the red brick wall from the original Varsity Stadium
Circa 1910 - Ground preparation for Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto. The stadium was completed in 1911. The building in the back is the former gymnasium/arena
Circa 1910 – Ground preparation for Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto. The stadium was completed in 1911. The building in the back is the former gymnasium/arena (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1282)
November 15, 1924 - Toronto Argos hosting the Ottawa Roughriders at Varsity Stadium. The ball carrier, Roughrider's Harry Hutchingham, is about to get tackled
November 15, 1924 – Toronto Argos hosting the Ottawa Roughriders at Varsity Stadium. The ball carrier, Roughrider’s Harry Hutchingham, is about to get tackled (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1561)
1930s – Looking southeast towards the crowd at Varsity Stadium. The buildings include the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (The Observatory), Varsity Stadium, Varsity Arena and McMaster Hall, today the Royal Conservatory of Music
1930s – Looking southeast towards the crowd at Varsity Stadium. The buildings include the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (The Observatory), Varsity Stadium, Varsity Arena and McMaster Hall, today the Royal Conservatory of Music (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1714)
1950 – Looking east along Bloor St W towards McMaster Hall (the building with the tall pointed roof), today the Royal Conservatory of Music. Varsity Stadium is directly behind it
1950 – Looking east along Bloor St W towards McMaster Hall (the building with the tall pointed roof), today the Royal Conservatory of Music. Varsity Stadium is directly behind it (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 335)
1930s - Actress Mary Pickford at a football kick-off at Varsity Stadium
1930s – Actress Mary Pickford at a football kick-off at Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4024)
1930s - Actress Mary Pickford at a football kick-off at Varsity Stadium. The Toronto-born silent film star owned the Mary Pickford Theatre, once located on the northwest corner of Queen St W and Spadina Ave
1930s – Actress Mary Pickford at a football kick-off at Varsity Stadium. The Toronto-born silent film star owned the Mary Pickford Theatre, once located on the northwest corner of Queen St W and Spadina Ave (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4025)
1930s - Skating team of Sonie Henie and Stewart Reburn at the Varsity Stadium outdoor rink
1930s – Skating team of Sonie Henie and Stewart Reburn at the Varsity Stadium outdoor rink (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4128)
2021 – University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign with the original stadium's red brick wall along Bloor St W
2021 – University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign with the original stadium’s red brick wall along Bloor St W
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking east along Bloor St W from Devonshire Pl with the Varsity Stadium wall on the right. In 2002, the stadium was demolished, and the wall was kept for heritage purposes
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking east along Bloor St W from Devonshire Pl with the Varsity Stadium wall on the right. In 2002, the stadium was demolished, and the wall was kept for heritage purposes (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 17)
 2023 – Looking east along Bloor St W from Devonshire Pl with the Varsity Stadium wall on the right
2023 – Looking east along Bloor St W from Devonshire Pl with the Varsity Stadium wall on the right
Circa 1910 - Skaters going to the Varsity Stadium outdoor rink
Circa 1910 – Skaters going to the Varsity Stadium outdoor rink (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 378)
1939 - Police Games Track and Field at Varsity Stadium
1939 – Police Games Track and Field at Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 1401)
Circa 1928 – High jumper Ethel Catherwood at Varsity Stadium
Circa 1928 – High jumper Ethel Catherwood at Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2184)
Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view looking southeast toward Varsity Stadium, which had a seating capacity of over 21,000
Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view looking southeast toward Varsity Stadium, which had a seating capacity of over 21,000 (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 29)
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking northeast towards Varsity Stadium and Bloor St W.  Notice the numbered seating in the stadium
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking northeast towards Varsity Stadium and Bloor St W. Notice the numbered seating in the stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 10)
2020 – The entrance to the University of Toronto Varsity Centre. The athletic complex includes a stadium, arena and pavilion
2020 – The entrance to the University of Toronto Varsity Centre. The athletic complex includes a stadium, arena and pavilion
2020 – Looking east from the track at Varsity Stadium. The field has been home to the University of Toronto's football team, the Varsity Blues, for more than 120 years
2020 – Looking east from the track at Varsity Stadium. The field has been home to the University of Toronto’s football team, the Varsity Blues, for more than 120 years
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking east along Bloor St W from just west of Bedford Rd with the Varsity Stadium on the right
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking east along Bloor St W from just west of Bedford Rd with the Varsity Stadium on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 7)
Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view looking southeast toward Varsity Stadium from Bloor St W and Devonshire Pl
Between 1980 and 1998 – An aerial view looking southeast toward Varsity Stadium from Bloor St W and Devonshire Pl (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 14)
2021 – Looking southeast from Varsity Field with the CN Tower in the distance
2021 – Looking southeast from Varsity Field with the CN Tower in the distance
Between 1980 and 1998 – Varsity Stadium's colonnade along Devonshire Pl
Between 1980 and 1998 – Varsity Stadium’s colonnade along Devonshire Pl (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 31)
Between 1980 and 1998 – Under the stadium seating in Varsity Stadium
Between 1980 and 1998 – Under the stadium seating in Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 8)
Between 1980 and 1998 –  Looking northeast from Devonshire Pl towards Bloor St W and Bedford Rd with the former Varsity Stadium on the right
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking northeast from Devonshire Pl towards Bloor St W and Bedford Rd with the former Varsity Stadium on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 33)
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking southwest towards the corner of Bloor St W and Devonshire Pl. The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy building is on the left, and the former Varsity Stadium is on the right
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking southwest towards the corner of Bloor St W and Devonshire Pl. The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy building is on the left, and the former Varsity Stadium is on the right (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 25)
1993 - An aerial view looking southeast towards Varsity Stadium
1993 – An aerial view looking southeast towards Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 179, Item 127)
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking northeast towards Bloor St W from Varsity Stadium stands. During its history, the stadium has hosted over twenty Vanier Cup games, Track & Field Championships, soccer matches, lacrosse, cricket, field hockey, flag football, ultimate frisbee, military events and music performances
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking northeast towards Bloor St W from Varsity Stadium stands. During its history, the stadium has hosted over twenty Vanier Cup games, Track & Field Championships, soccer matches, lacrosse, cricket, field hockey, flag football, ultimate frisbee, military events and music performances (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 266, Item 231)
2020 – Looking towards the University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign on Bloor St W. Notice the athletic centre's air-supported dome in the background
2020 – Looking towards the University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign on Bloor St W. Notice the athletic centre’s air-supported dome in the background
Between 1980 and 1998 –  Looking south from Bloor St W and Bedford Rd towards Varsity Stadium wall and sign
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking south from Bloor St W and Bedford Rd towards Varsity Stadium wall and sign (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 19)
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking north up Bedford Rd from Varsity Stadium
Between 1980 and 1998 – Looking north up Bedford Rd from Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 278, Item 4)
2022 – University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign and the red brick wall from the original stadium
2022 – University of Toronto Varsity Blues sign and the red brick wall from the original stadium
Between 1936 and 1937 - Advertising on a billboard for the Toronto Argonauts games at Varsity Stadium
Between 1936 and 1937 – Advertising on a billboard for the Toronto Argonauts games at Varsity Stadium (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 4865)
2021 - The heritage plaque reads: The Grey Cup "For more than a century, the Grey Cup has brought Canadians together to celebrate our brand of football, our country, and the bond between them. The annual Grey Cup, played here on 30 occasions, is a national championship game that has produced such memorable contests as the "Mud Bowl," the "Fog Bowl," and the "Ice Bowl." Donated in 1909 by Governor General Earl Grey, first won by the University of Toronto and now awarded to the champions of the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup trophy has become a symbol of sporting excellence and Canadian unity." Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada
2021 - The heritage plaque reads:  

The Grey Cup 

"For more than a century, the Grey Cup has brought Canadians together to celebrate our brand of football, our country, and the bond between them. The annual Grey Cup, played here on 30 occasions, is a national championship game that has produced such memorable contests as the "Mud Bowl," the "Fog Bowl," and the "Ice Bowl." Donated in 1909 by Governor General Earl Grey, first won by the University of Toronto and now awarded to the champions of the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup trophy has become a symbol of sporting excellence and Canadian unity." 

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada
2021 – The heritage plaque reads:

The Grey Cup

“For more than a century, the Grey Cup has brought Canadians together to celebrate our brand of football, our country, and the bond between them. The annual Grey Cup, played here on 30 occasions, is a national championship game that has produced such memorable contests as the “Mud Bowl,” the “Fog Bowl,” and the “Ice Bowl.” Donated in 1909 by Governor General Earl Grey, first won by the University of Toronto and now awarded to the champions of the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup trophy has become a symbol of sporting excellence and Canadian unity.”

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and Parks Canada
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