Vancouver Heritage Foundation Weekly: A Sporting History


Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture.
Recreation Park VPL Accession Number: 6885 Date: 1907 Photographer/Studio: Timms, Philip

Recreation Park, Athletic Park, Nat Bailey Stadium, China Creek Cycle Track, the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Pacific Coliseum, BC Place Stadium. The history of sports sites in Vancouver tells the story of Vancouver’s economic and real estate growth. From the boom and bust of the early times, to our evolution from ravines and forests to glass towers, bridges and even a retractable roof.

From the photo above, what would be your first guess as to its location in Vancouver? On May 11th 1905, Recreation Park, Vancouver’s new baseball grounds opened to patrons for just a quarter dollar each. The Daily Province advertised the last vacant double corner lot at $1450 cash right at Homer and Smithe across from the grounds entrance. The corner was a bit a ways from the heart of the city, being very residential, but things were shifting with the street cars and development.  The ad for the home read “Inside of two months the new car line extension will be complete to this corner. First-class site for a store, hotel or cafe-restaurant, with flats overhead and dwelling-houses on rear portion. Close to main business centre of the city. No building restrictions.” (Looks like someone took up the offer as the Harrison Galleries/ Buzz Cafe occupies the corner of the building constructed two years later in 1907). In 1913 Recreation Park was moved from its original site, eventually being converted to a parking lot, until the construction of the Yaletown Park condominiums.

Before the 2010 Olympics and Expo ’86, Vancouver hosted the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (click to NFB video) and it was quite the event. Some sporting events took place in buildings that already existed such as West Point Grey Club and New West Club (bowling), Lord Byng School (fencing), PNE Forum and Gardens (boxing and weight lifting), Vedder Canal in Chilliwack (rowing). Two major facilities now lost were built 1) Empire Stadium for track and field at Hastings Park 2) Empire Oval  for cycling at Broadway and Glen. The Empire Pool is apparently the last original structure from the 1954 BEG still standing …. guess where? It’s at UBC,  which was also the site of the athletes village!

Crowds in the stands at Empire Stadium for the British Empire Games VPL Accession Number: 43570 Date: 1954 Photographer / Studio: Province Newspaper: Commonwealth Games (5th : 1954 : Vancouver, B.C.)

Who could forget the massive changes brought by the construction of the BC Place Stadium? Beginning in 1983, the conversion of the north shore of False Creek from industrial to recreational and residential uses, Expo ’86 existed alongside saw mills, a cooperage, CPR rail yards and warehouses.

VHF recently visited the BC Sports Hall of Fame (located at BC Place Stadium) and was delighted with their archives. We are now very much excited for the great stories we are bound to hear at these sports site themed plaque presentations. First up to get things started is China Creek Cycle Track, the exact site of VCC Broadway Campus, Wednesday, Feb 6th at 10am. Find out more at this site presentation and all the others this year! More details soon.

As you can tell there is a whole lot of sports history in Vancouver. We’re looking for someone with historical knowledge of Vancouver sports to help us understand the big picture and participate in Places That Matter. Contact Jessica at if you’d like to help out!