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As Regina folks look forward to the new state-of-the-art Mosaic Stadium, a smaller venue, rich in Saskatchewan history, has hosted its last game. Demolition began on the Exhibition Stadium on Jan. 17.

The old Exhibition Stadium was home to hockey and curling games, the circus, international musicians and a century's worth of memories. Also known as the Queen City Gardens, the stadium was a popular venue for community activity in its prime.

“I think you have to be of a certain vintage to really appreciate what it was,” long-time Regina Leader-Post sports writer Rob Vanstone explained. “Once upon a time NHL teams would hold their training camps and exhibition games here, so Rocket Richard played there.”

But you didn’t even have to be a part of the sporting community to have enjoyed the old stadium. Vanstone said. “The greatest of the greats played at Exhibition Stadium irrespective of the sporting context: Buddy Holly, and Louis Armstrong. There was public skating in the evenings, curling events, you name it!”

“Before it evolved into the stadium there was a large complex there… soldiers that were in training and en route to battle in the First World War were lodged there,” Vanstone recalled.

Vanstone also cherishes the memories he made in the stadium alongside his late father. “I think everyone has their own personal stories, mine is a bit sappy,” Vanstone said. “My father was the organist for the Regina Pats… beginning in October of 1971.”

“Those were great memories. I lost my dad in 1982; I was only 18. But that was one of the things I really enjoyed sharing with him. Dad would play the organ in his little green booth in the far end of the stadium, and I would sit in a folding chair in the door of the organ booth and watch the games. That’s something that’s so closely associated with someone I’ve been missing for nearly 34 years.”

  • Stadium Rubble
    Stadium Rubble

    Photo by Michaela Solomon

  • Brooks Ross Walking Through the Rubble
    Brooks Ross Walking Through the Rubble

    Photo by Michaela Solomon

  • Inside the Old Exhibition Stadium
    Inside the Old Exhibition Stadium

    Photo by Michaela Solomon

  • Brooks Ross Inside the Old Exhibition Stadium
    Brooks Ross Inside the Old Exhibition Stadium

    Photo by Michaela Solomon

Vanstone gave some context to the popularity of the stadium. Prior to the Regina Pats shifting gears to the then-new Agridome, now the Brandt Centre, in 1977, the Exhibition Stadium was a favoured local stomping ground. “Those were the days too where there weren’t a lot of options,” said Vanstone. “There weren’t mobile phones, and there were only two TV stations in town: CKCK, and CBC. So I think you had to actively pursue entertainment options a lot more than you do now, when you can just be a slug and watch TV programs on your phone.”

“The one thing I do remember about it was that it had a distinct odor of horses in it, even in the winter,” said Gilles Choquet, who played defense for the Regina Pats from 1977-78. “It was one of those rinks that other hockey teams didn’t want to come play in, because when you have a rink that had character like that, the home team usually has an advantage,” Choquet recalled.

Twenty-one-year-old hockey player Brooks Ross offers a more recent perspective on the old barn. “Early morning practices in the winters, steam would be on the ice, and it would smell of cow poop. But it was a great rink with a lot of character,” Ross said. “I can also recall sneaking in the back doors of the building to get into the swamp at the end of Agribition. The swamp wasn’t much but a bar underneath the stairs but it also had a lot of memories."