Exhibition Stadium

Canadian National Exhibition Stadium (more commonly known as Exhibition Stadium or CNE Stadium) was a multi-purpose stadium, that formerly stood on the Exhibition Place grounds, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Exhibition Stadium was actually the fourth stadium to be built on the 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. 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 bleachers were covered but the main grandstand was not.

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 1977-1989. It also served as the home of the Toronto Argonauts, of the Canadian Football League, from 1959-1988. The stadium hosted the Grey Cup game twelve times, over a 24-year period.


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.


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.


Problems with the wind and cold

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 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. Because of the variable climate and the stadium's multiple tenants in 1976, the original grass surface was replaced with AstroTurf.


Problems with hosting baseball

Exhibition Stadium was problematic for hosting baseball. Like most multi-purpose stadiums, the outfield seats were far from the field. This was magnified by the fact that Canadian football fields are 30 yards longer, and considerably wider, than American football fields. Combined with the vaguely horseshoe-shape of the stadium, this resulted in many of the seats down the right field line and in the bleachers in right-centre being 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.


The left-field bleachers were the only seats that offered protection from the elements. Ironically, they were the cheapest seats. The only other seats that offered a decent view of the game were directly behind the plate. Most other seats looked away from the field. Several bleacher seats in left-centre and several permanent seats down the right-field line were so far from the field that the Blue Jays didn't even sell them during the regular season.




Ball Parks of Yesterday, Baseball History, Exhibition Stadium, Expansion, Toronto Blue Jays