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Official Review by Robbie Raskin, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The University of Toronto is home to around 75,000 students. It has long been regarded as one of North America's most prestigious universities. And for just as long, Varsity Stadium has been a home to football at every level. Several very notable events have taken place at Varsity Field over the years. In fact the first ever documented game of gridiron football, which took place in 1861, was held near the current site of the stadium.
Several famous Grey Cup games including the first ever championship as well as the 1950 'mud bowl,' which was quite possible the most well-known Grey Cup game ever played, have been played at Varsity Stadium.
Having been renovated six times since its original construction in 1898 and demolished and rebuilt in 2002, there have been enormous fluctuations in capacity and design at the stadium. Continued investment from the government as well as the university in preparation for the upcoming 2015 Pan Am games have brought about plans for a new high-performance athletics centre across the street and further renovations to the Varsity Stadium meaning it will continue to be a great place to watch football, and other sports, for a long time.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
At first glance there does not appear to be that much on offer at Varsity Stadium. There is one concession stand selling hot dogs, chocolate, and pop. There are also a few vending machines scattered throughout the concourse. Also inside the stadium is a beer garden with television screens selling a variety of national and regional brands.
What sets this stadium apart is actually just behind the South fence of the stadium. A handful of food trucks set up shop and offer cheap, tasty, and unique foods for fans to enjoy. The stadium wisely allows in and out privileges for fans with their hands stamped upon entry. A quick walk around the field and you will be confronted with six or seven different trucks ranging from a poutinerie, smoked meat truck, mobile smoker, sausage stand, cupcakery, and more. Caplansky's Deli, frequently renowned as the best smoked meat in the city, usually brings their truck, Thunderin' Thelma to the game. Try the maple-bacon doughnuts!!! Of course, being able to walk out of the stadium as you please, you may also visit the numerous restaurants and cafes on Bloor Street and there is a Tim Horton's across the street.
The stadium feels incredibly intimate yet is open to the surrounding city life. Before the game, phone company Mobilicity was running 'tryouts' for the first-annual Phone Throwing Competition. The three winners competed at half-time to see who could lance a cellphone the farthest. It was very fun to take part in and watch.
There was lots of music playing in the concourse before the game and the cheerleading squads were riling up fans from each school. Furthermore, the CIS brought the Vanier Cup in and offered fans the chance to pose next to it. The Toronto Argonauts also came in offering very good deals on tickets to the next day's game.
The stadium announcer is energetic and professional and the scoreboard is very clear with frequent replays and vignettes.
A few Toronto alumni set up a brass band which entertained the crowd with jazzy standards.
Varsity Stadium is located at the Northeastern corner of the enormous University of Toronto campus and at the edge of glitzy Yorkville. Next door is the brand new Telus Centre for the Performing Arts, the Royal Academy of Music, the National Ballet School, and the Royal Ontario Museum with its jagged Crystal addition. The stadium is close to all the major downtown attractions and is across the street from the Hotel InterContinental.
There were about 4,000 fans in attendance during my most recent visit in 2012, which was not bad considering the rainy October day, but might have been better seeing as the game was the final game of the season against crosstown rival York. The fans were noisy and most seemed to know their football and cheered on players by their first names. The stadium was generally divided into York and U of T sections and each section was riled up by the cheerleaders arrayed in front of them on the field level.
There is no free parking on site, but there is a Green P municipal garage across the street. Public transit is still the best way to access the game, and the St. George station is across the street as well with connections to the North-South University Line and the East-West Bloor/Danforth Line. The stadium is easy to get to on bike and Bixi bike rental stands are located nearby.
There is one washroom for each gender but there are not generally long backups.
Tickets are affordable and students from U of T get in for free as do children under 8. Youth and seniors pay $5 online or $7 at the gate and the adult ticket price is $10 online or $12 at the gate. In-stadium concessions are under $5 and meals to go from the food trucks will generally run you $5-$10. University of Toronto apparel is average in price and there are great deals to be had on Argonauts' tickets.
One point for the firing of a cannon at the beginning of each half, signaling fans to reenter the stadium for kickoff.
One point for the fun half-time phone throwing show.
One point for the friendly Argonauts staff with great deals on CFL tickets.
The first documented game of gridiron football was played at the University of Toronto, which I think is worthy of an extra point.
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225 Front St W
Toronto, ON M5V 2X3