When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day. These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits. I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.
Day 9: Athletic Park was Vancouver’s first purpose-built baseball stadium…
Athletic Park was sited atop an escarpment overlooking industrial False Creek at the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. Bob Brown, the owner of the Vancouver Beavers Baseball Team, known locally as Mr. Baseball, built it on land leased from the CPR on the southeast corner of West 5th and Hemlock. Brown purportedly cleared the land for the park himself using dynamite and a pickaxe! Over 6,000 baseball fans were in attendance for the park’s opening day on April 17, 1913.
Mainly used for baseball, Athletic Park also hosted other sports like football and lacrosse, as well as labour and political rallies. Athletic Park was also notable for the first time a night game was played illuminated by floodlights in Canada.
Bob Brown bought the Capilanos baseball team with the help of Capilano Breweries Ltd in 1939. This team would eventually evolve into the Vancouver Mounties and later the Vancouver Canadians. Brown sold Athletic Park to Capilano Breweries Ltd. owner Emil Sick in 1945, but stayed on as manager until 1954. Athletic Park’s Capilano Stadium was home to the team until 1951 when a new Capilano Stadium (now Nat Bailey Stadium) opened on Little Mountain. It’s said that some of Athletic Park’s turf made it to the new stadium, ensuring that at least a piece of Vancouver baseball history would live on.
Athletic Park was demolished in the early 1950s to make way for the elevated Hemlock street on-ramp for the new Granville Street Bridge, which opened in 1954.