CBC Sports

Canada's stadium masterpiece

Posted: Friday, September 11, 2009 | 11:05 AM

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Of all the outdoor venues for sport in Canada, the International Ring at Spruce Meadows, on the outskirts of Calgary, stands out as a diamond in the rough.

To many it is a revelation.

Spruce Meadows is an underappreciated jewel where, since its opening in 1975, millions upon millions of people from around the world have flocked. Experts agree that this venue has few, if any equals on the face of the earth.

The grounds at Spruce Meadows had their beginnings as a cattle-feed lot more than 30 years ago, but steadily the place has blossomed into horse heaven and the final word in show jumping. It has been the singular vision of the Southern family and has come to represent the closest thing Canada can claim to baseball’s iconic Wrigley Field in Chicago.

An aerial view of Spruce Meadows, just outside Calgary.

Toronto has historic Maple Leaf Gardens and the retractable roof at Rogers Centre. Montreal boasts the most expensive white elephant in the country in the Olympic Stadium. Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium claims the greatest permanent seating capacity of over 60,000 as well as real grass.

Spruce Meadows is much more impressive.

Comprised of 360 acres including two indoor and six outdoor competition rings, it has stabling for a 1,000 horses. The place stages three seasonal tournaments and each year attendance approaches - and often exceeds - half a million souls. The record one-day total in the showcase International Ring is 65,000 recorded last September as the Olympic medallists from Canada returned home to take on their rivals at the Spruce Meadows Masters.

There is an immense clock tower flanked by sprawling grandstands and a giant natural grass bank where families rush to sit on blankets and watch the spectacular horses jump on the immaculate turf. The grass is always groomed to an emerald green in spite of the precocious foothills weather and luxuriates over the space of four full football fields in the shadow of the majestic Rockies.

Spruce Meadows can literally take your breath away.

There is also a magic goes beyond the competition it fosters. At Spruce Meadows it has always been about accessibility. Admission for the day is five dollars per family and if you don’t have the coin they’ll let you in free.

All of which makes the International Ring at Spruce Meadows a masterpiece stadium not to be missed.

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