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Thursday, 27 October 2011

University Stadium's last hurrah !

This Saturday, October 29, 2011, at 1 p.m. the U of M Bisons football team play their final game at University Stadium. They are asking Bison alum to come join them.

Pan Am Stadium, circa May 1967 (Source)

University Stadium was one of the signature buildings constructed for the 1967 Pan Am Games along with the Velodrome and Pan Am Pool. (I cannot find a record of who the architect was.)

Initially, organizers thought an upgraded Winnipeg Stadium could handle track and field events but the pitch from the sideline to centre field (for drainage purposes) was twelve inches, something not allowed under track and field rules. Rather than construct a new field just to replace it after three weeks (costing a bundle and leaving the Bombers homeless in the middle of the season) the decision was made to look at alternate sites.

The U of M site
chosen was home to the experimental sod plantation of Dr. Shebeski. Rather than being upset at losing his plots, he instead supervised the preparation of the ground and laying of sod for the new facility.

The $1.1m facility opened in May 1967 and a number of special invitation track events were held to break it in.

400m final, 1967 Pan Am Games (Source)

A key feature of the stadium was the 400m long, $140,000 "Tartan" track. Tartan was a 3M product recently developed for all-weather horse racing tracks. Impervious to water, frost and cleats, it was considered suitable to handle Manitoba's climate.

The company was eager to show it off in a track and field setting, (the $140k was said to be a significant discount off the market price).
Officials from the 1968 Olympic Games flew in to check it out, as did former track great Jessie Owens who said "For once, runners won't be running in somebody else's footprints." (Winnipeg Free Press, April 29, 1967.)

University Stadium

The most noticeable feature of the stadium is the 70 foot tall timers tower. It was outfitted with all of the latest Omega timing and photo-finish equipment required for a meet of some of the world's best runners.

University Stadium

The permanent stands held 5,000 people but temporary seating brought the capacity to 15,000. From those seats, fans saw Canadian Harry Jerome win the 100m gold. American JohnCarlos won the 200m, (he was part of the iconic 'Black Power' image on the podium at the 1968 Olympic Games.)

Aside from the Pan American Games, July 23 to August 6, 1967, it also hosted the Pan Am Paralympic Games from August 8 - 13.

University Stadium

Once the Games were complete the Pan Am committee transferred the stadium to the University of Manitoba. On September 16, 1967 the Bisons played their first regular season game there, a 9-0 victory over the UBC Thunderbirds.

The dedication and naming ceremony took place on October 21, 1967. What was known informally as Pan Am Stadium was officially named University Stadium, though press articles soon reverted back to calling it Pan Am Stadium well into the 1970s.

It was an impressive year of expansion for the University of Manitoba. That same weekend the John A Russell (Architecture) Building, the Engineering Building and the School of Medical Rehab (on Bannatyne) were also officially opened.

September 26, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press

The only Bison season not played at University Stadium was 1973. A renovation that included an August re-sodding of the field went badly. The sod did not take and would have to be torn up and laid again. This left the Herd scrambling to find a new home. The Winnipeg Stadium declined to host their games so the Bisons called the Winnipeg Velodrome home for the season.

University Stadium

When the University of Manitoba was chosen as the site for the new Bomber Stadium, it was announced that it would also become the new home of the Bisons. The new stadium will open in Spring 2012.

For more photos of the old stadium and the progress on the new stadium.


1967 Pan American Games Site U of M
Bison Football celebrate 44 year at University Stadium U of M
Bombers offer 3-D peek at new Stadium CBC


One Man Committee said...
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One Man Committee said...

I don't understand why University Stadium was built so far away from the rest of the campus. Attending games there feels like you're out in the middle of a cornfield... just no atmosphere whatsoever.

It will be quite a move for the Bisons from one of the worst facilities in university football to what will undoubtedly be the very best.

Christian Cassidy said...

I only saw one game there and about the only thing it has going for it is that it doesn't face into the sun ! (and that timers tower is kinda cool)

I didn't find a reference as to why that location. It doesn't appear that there was any structure on the land closer to the campus.

Perhaps they thought that other sports facilities would join it at some point but they all ended up staying on the west side of the street ?

Christian Cassidy said...

Thanks Wenq !