Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 9 – Athletic Park

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.

Exterior of Athletic Park ca. 1920. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 99-870.

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.

Baseball opening day, 1915. Photo: COV Archives, PAN N14B


60th Anniversary of CBUT- Part 3 – CBUT and the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games

This Wednesday, July 30th, marks the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (BE&CG) held in Vancouver –  at the time “the most spectacular event of its kind in Canada’s history and the greatest Empire and Commonwealth sports meet ever staged”. It also marks the 60th anniversary of CBUT’s (and the CBC network’s) first national (and international) live television broadcast.

The CBC purchased exclusive world rights for complete coverage of the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games in Vancouver (July 30 to August 7) for $50,000. Jack McCabe, a CBC sports producer, was appointed by the CBC to co-ordinate radio, television and film coverage of the event. In the early days of television, before communications satellites, it was one of the most ambitious enterprises ever undertaken by Canadian radio and television.

The Commonwealth looks to Vancouver. Graphic promoting CBC's TV and Radio broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games from Vancouver.
The Commonwealth looks to Vancouver. Graphic promoting CBC’s TV and Radio broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games from Vancouver.

The 1954 BE&C Games marked the first time Eastern and Western Canada were linked for a simultaneous live telecast.  This unique feat was made possible by a circuitous route totaling some 2,750 miles (4,425 km) across the United States from Seattle to Buffalo (via Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines, and Chicago), thus linking CBUT, Vancouver, with CBLT, Toronto, and the microwave-connected television stations of Eastern Canada. In connecting the Vancouver production centre with the eastern network stations, CBC television coverage of the Games was made available to Canadians the same day. Continue reading “60th Anniversary of CBUT- Part 3 – CBUT and the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games”