It was the site of the Miracle Mile and where the Beatles took the stage in Vancouver, now after being demolished in 1993 Empire Stadium will once again be filled with cheering fans.
Here are some historic events that took place in the old Empire Stadium, located on Hastings right near Hwy 1 in East Vancouver:
- 1954 – The Games – The stadium opened for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, hence its name — Empire Stadium. 24 nations sent 662 competitors to compete in Vancouver for the Games. It was Canada’s largest stadium.
- 1954 The Miracle Mile – Roger Bannister was the first man to break the “four-minute mile” and his win is immortalized in a statue at the entrance to the PNE on Hastings and Renfrew. John Landy, the man looking over his shoulder in the statue, also ran it in under four minutes but Bannister beat him across the line. The CBC has a great video archive clip of this.
- 1957 Elvis Presley – A young Red Robinson from CKWX radio was there to emcee Elvis’ show at Empire. Elvis got one song in before the show had to stop because the crowd was too loud and excited, he later returned to the stag to play a few more songs. Robinson said afterward that it was the first time a performer stood in front of a crowd of 26,000 people in a rented stadium. No one had done it before, not even Sinatra. He also commented that as a result of Elvis’ appearance, “Vancouver was firmly established as a major destination for every Rock ‘N Roll act that followed.” [source]
- 1958 Stadium Ski Jump – A 165-foot high ski jump hill was erected for the three-day Centennial Ski Jump Tournament at Empire Stadium. Though over 20,000 people attended the event, it’s said that 60,000 more watched from outside the fence for free. [source]. Hat tip to Dave Olson for this info as well.
- 1964 The Beatles – Due to the screams of the wild a fanatic crowd, the Beatles show only lasted about 20 minutes before they had to stop playing – no one could hear them and people were rushing the gates.
- The Whitecaps – In 1978 The Whitecaps were drawing crowds of close to 30,000 at Empire Stadium. [source]
- Empire Stadium was also the first to have artificial grass in Canada, and towards the end of its run it seated 32,375. It also hosted the Grey Cup seven times between 1958 and 1974.
While BC Place is otherwise engaged in 2010 with the Olympics and major renovations, the BC Lions will play their games at a new structure built on the site of Empire Stadium. Adjacent to the PNE (just East of the Coaster) it’s a great location with a fantastic North Shore view. The Vancouver Whitecaps will also play a few games at Empire once again during their inaugural MLS season in 2011. Here’s what the 27,500-seat temporary stadium will look like:
I’m looking forward to its return, in whatever form the incarnation may take. As my husband said last night, imagine a warm summer evening up in the stands with the aromas of the PNE’s candy floss and fresh popcorn wafting over the crowd as you take in a football game with a mountain backdrop. Sounds like a great Vancouver outing to me.
Update June 17, 2010 John had a sneak peek at the field this week. I posted his photos here.