Canad Inns Stadium (formerly Winnipeg Stadium) is a Canadian football stadium located north of Polo Park Shopping Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Stadium, named for hotel chain Canad Inns, and originally completed in 1953, seats 29,533 for football. It has been the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL since 1953 and the Winnipeg Rifles of the Prairie Football Conference and has also been home to various incarnations of the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Winnipeg Whips (AAA Montreal Expos farm team) baseball teams.

History

During the Blue Bombers' early years, the team played at Osborne Stadium, a much smaller venue located near the Manitoba Legislative Buildings. The fast passing-dominated play of Bombers quarterback Jack Jacobs dramatically increased attendance at Blue Bombers game and precipitated the need for a new, larger stadium.

In the wake of several unsuccessful proposals for a new stadium, a plan for the construction of a new 15,700 seat home for the Blue Bombers in the Polo Park district was approved by the City of Winnipeg in 1952. The Stadium was officially opened on August 14, 1953, with a fundraising gala to benefit the Winnipeg Unit of the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Foster Hewitt served as the master of ceremonies as 12,000 spectators watched an array of Shriners, athletes, politicians, and Hollywood actress Corinne Calvet inaugurate the Stadium. The following night, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers played the first football game at the new facility against the Ottawa Rough Riders. The Stadium became known as "the house that Jack built" in recognition of the contributions of Jack Jacobs.

The on-field success of the Blue Bombers and their growing fan base led to numerous expansions of the facility beginning in 1954, when capacity was raised to 17,995. Of those seats, only 10,166 were on permanent concrete grandstands, with the remainder being temporary seating in the Stadium corners. Further additions included the construction of new north end-zone seating in 1966 and expansion of the west side grandstands (including a new upper deck) in 1972. In 1978, the east side grandstands were expanded (including a new upper deck) in 1978, raising capacity to 32,946. Seats were also added in 1987 when the Stadium was configured to accommodate baseball, at which point its capacity peaked at 33,675. The Stadium's seating capacity remained at that level until 1999, when lower deck benches were replaced by theatre-style seats, the press boxes were enlarged and a club lounge added. Following renovations, seating capacity was reduced to 29,533, the figure at which it stands today.

In 2001, the name of the facility changed from Winnipeg Stadium to CanadInns Stadium following the purchase of naming rights by Winnipeg-based hotel chain CanadInns.

Baseball

The original baseball grandstands, built at a cost of $184,000 in 1954 and situated in the southwest corner of the complex, were demolished in the early 1980s to make way for the Blue and Gold Room. The Stadium once again became a multi-sport facility in the late 1980s, in an effort to attract a AAA baseball club to Winnipeg. To that end, artificial turf, retractable seats on the east side stands, and new seating behind the home plate area (the northwest corner of the field, in the football end zone area) were installed. Although AAA baseball never returned to the city, the independent Northern League granted Winnipeg an expansion team for the 1994 season, adopting the Goldeyes name. After five years at the Stadium, the Goldeyes moved to the new baseball-only facility, CanWest Global Park, in 1999.

Major events

Canad Inns Stadium hosted the opening ceremonies of both the 1967 and 1999 Pan-American Games. The 1967 Games saw the construction of new north end zone seating. The 1999 Games saw several improvements in preparation for the event, including new seats to replace old benches, additional media and club seating facilities, improved lighting and sound, and a new Sony JumboTron scoreboard. The Stadium's artificial turf was replaced in 2003, and a new AstroPlay surface was installed.

The CFL Grey Cup championship game was held at Canad Inns Stadium in 1991, 1998, and 2006. In each instance, temporary seating was used to increase the Stadium's capacity. The Stadium's attendance record was set on November 24, 1991, when 51,985 fans watched the Toronto Argonauts defeat the Calgary Stampeders for the Grey Cup. For the 2006 Grey Cup, temporary seats were erected at the south end of the football field, raising the Stadium's capacity to 44,784.

While the Stadium is best known as a professional sports venue, it has been used to host numerous amateur sports events and other entertainment events, including The Rock on the Range music festival, since 2009. The Stadium was also used for many years by the Red River Exhibition and hosting concerts.

Future plans

Work is currently underway to build a replacement for Canad Inns Stadium with a new 33,000 seat football facility to be constructed on the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba. Groundbreaking for the new stadium took place on May 20, 2010, with the Blue Bombers expected to move in for the 2012 CFL season.

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