York Lions Stadium - York Lions
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
York Lions Stadium
4700 Keele St
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
Year Opened: 2015
The New Pride of the Lions
For five years, the York Lions looked across campus, longing for better days. In 2015, York University in Toronto opened York Lions Stadium for the 2015 PanAm/Parapan Games which were taking place in the GTA. The former CIBC Pan Am and Parapan Am Athletics Stadium was the home for athletics and would end up also hosting the 2017 North American Indigenous Games and 2017 Invictus Games games. The Lions were a stone's throw away at Alumni Field @ York Stadium, a far less comfortable or modern stadium. The question always seemed to be why could York Lions Stadium host the York Lions football team. Renovations to the stadium would take place including a new turf field and the removal of the running track to make York Lions Stadium an appropriate facility to host USports football and Canadian Premier League soccer. In 2021, the Lions would play their first home game at their new home against the Toronto Varsity Blues in somewhat of a downpour.
The York Lions, formerly the York Yeomen, have fielded a football team since 1968. The last two decades have been particularly tough for the Lions who have not made the playoffs since 2004. The Lions remain one of only two USports football programs to never win a conference title. Hopefully, the new home of the Lions can help change their fortunes and greater success can be found on the gridiron in North Toronto.
Food & Beverage 2
The concession options are pretty limited at York Lions Stadium. During the game that was reviewed, there were three food trucks parked behind the south endzone which provided food for patrons. There is a regular concession stand in York Lions Stadium, but for the game reviewed, this is where the team branded clothing was sold. Keeping in mind that the game that was reviewed was the first of the season and before the vast majority of students are on campus and before regular classes have started, it is possible that the concession situation is different for games later in the season.
The York Lions have gone from one of the worst facilities in USports to one of the best. York Lions Stadium provides a modern, single grandstand on the west side of a brand new field-turf field which is oriented from north to south. There is no real main entry as the main structure on the west side offers two gate entries at either end. For Lions games, the south entry is unavailable and fans must enter on the north side through Gate 1. As compared to other USports football venues, the main grandstand is a skyscraper and can accurately be described as tall and skinny. Outside of Gate 1, where the ticket booth also stands, is an Indigenous piece of stone art which is unique and catches the eye. The exterior of the main grandstand is more functional than beautiful, but the materials and colours used are not eyesores. It is clear by the size of the main building that there is more going on than just a simple set of seats for football. Past the south endzone stands a videoboard that is the best in the league and the Lions gameday staff use it well for the video feed and the display of minor statistics.
Once past the ticket entry, fans are to ascend two flights of stairs to the main, outdoor, concourse behind the seating. Nine sections of plastic, traditional stadium chairs make up the seating area, which sits on a significant slope, keeping fans as close to the action as possible. There are no bleacher seats, other than those above the press box, which are not in use for Lions games, which is a massive upgrade over other OUA facilities. The press box and suites give the Lions opportunities to host media and VIPs that are not available around the league. Overall, the physical building offers a host of possibilities, and is the class of the conference.
The gameday atmosphere is run by students and is fairly simple. Fans ascending the grandstand from the north end are met with a double line of cheerleaders welcoming them to the game. Players enter the playing field from the southwest corner through a large, inflatable Lion, and a smoke machine. The sound system at York Lions Stadium is top notch and does not provide annoying echo often found in other stadiums. The Lions cheerleaders cheer from the stands, which is unique, and the mascot, Yeo, can be found participating in promotions and roaming the sidelines.
York University is located at the north end of Toronto, in what was formerly the city of North York before amalgamation. With Steeles Ave. at the northern border of the Keele Campus, where York Lions Stadium is located, there are a few pre and post game food and drink options available.
The York Lions field a full complement of athletic teams including basketball, which plays at Tait McKenzie Centre and hockey at Canlan Ice Sports York, both of which are on the Keele Campus. York United FC of CPL and Toronto Arrows of MLR also share York Lions Stadium with the Lions football and soccer teams. Sobeys Stadium is also on the Campus of York University and this is the home for the Canadian Open tennis tournament. There are other major sports in Toronto, but all are at the southern end of the city while York is located at the extreme north. The Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC, Toronto Argonauts, and Toronto Marlies all play close to Lake Ontario in the south. The University of Toronto fields Varsity Blues football, basketball and hockey among other teams and Toronto Metro hosts basketball and hockey in the former Maple Leaf Gardens. There are plenty of other tourist options in Toronto. At the north end of the city, fans are just minutes away from the City of Vaughan, which is home to Canada’s Wonderland and Vaughan Mills Shopping Mall. Also, up the street from the campus gate is Black Creek Pioneer Village. Further south, the theatre scene is among the best in North America and in the late summer the Canadian National Exhibition is on at Exhibition Place.
For visiting fans, there are plenty of places to stay. Fans may want to consider Best Western Toronto North York and Staybridge Suites Toronto-Vaughan which are very close to York University.
A York Lions football fan is the definition of diehard. For those who have followed the program for many years, there has been little to cheer about. It is difficult to assess fans in OUA football as attendance figures are not always published. The game that was reviewed did have an estimated 800 to 1000 fans in attendance. It must be noted that this game was scheduled before classes began and the majority of students had yet to make their way to campus. It is expected that more fans would be in attendance later, but there was a surprising number of York supporters inhouse to mix with visiting fans.
York Lions Stadium is located near the Black Creek neighbourhood of Toronto. It is not difficult to get to, however, Toronto traffic, even in the north end, is significant. Steeles Avenue, the northern border of campus, is among the busiest streets in the city. However, proximity to Highways 400 and 407 is very close. Fans traveling should be aware that Highway 407 is a toll road. There is sufficient parking on campus and fans will be required to pay a nominal parking fee. York utilizes the Honk app for ease in paying for parking. For fans wanting to take public transit, the Pioneer Village station is at the north end of campus, near the stadium. Fans are able to take the TTC from here down to Union Station if they wish. There are also York Region Transit buses that stop at the Pioneer Village station. Fans should check the TTC or YRT websites for fares, maps and schedules. Getting around York Lions Stadium does come with plenty of stairs. Those challenged with mobility difficulties may find some challenges here. There is plenty of space behind the seating area for fans to stand or sit with wheelchairs if necessary. The washrooms are adequate for the facility.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for the York Lions are just $10 for adults. There’s a $2.50 discount for seniors and youth and York University students and kids under 12 are free. This is a terrifically low price for any kind of sporting event. The only thing keeping this score for ROI from being perfect is the lack of success the Lions have shown on the field. With better facilities, perhaps a better product will show up.
An extra mark for York University investing in their football program by completing the renovations to York Lions Stadium and inviting the football team to play there.
An extra mark for the Red and Blue Bowl, which is a rivalry game York plays in every season against the Toronto Varsity Blues. In some cases a victory in the Red-Blue Bowl is the only victory either team will achieve during the season.
The longing has ended and the York Lions are secure in their new den. York Lions Stadium provides the Lions with one of, if not the best football facilities in the conference. It will be interesting to see if this can translate in recruiting better talent on the field and a few more checkmarks in the ‘W’ column.