Home of Professional Baseball in Vancouver since 1951
“The Nat,” officially known as Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium, has been the home of professional baseball in Vancouver since 1951. Named Capilano Stadium when it opened, it replaced the old Capilano Stadium, originally known as Athletic Park, at 5th and Hemlock Street. Modelled after a pillar-free baseball stadium in Hollywood, it was completed by the city following years of protests from Riley Park-area residents and the fire marshall. A crew cut the turf from Athletic Park and moved it to the new stadium. The Capilanos disbanded when the league collapsed in 1954, a victim of television. Baseball resumed in 1956 with the Vancouver Mounties, continuing until 1969 with a break in ’63 and ’64 due to the team’s bankruptcy.
The main supporter during those years was Nat Bailey, owner of the White Spot drive-in chain. Five days after he died, in 1978, the Park Board renamed the stadium for him. That year, with Molson’s Brewery sponsorship, baseball resumed with the Vancouver Canadians of the Pacific Coast League and continued until 1999; the current team, members of the Class A Short-Season League, have played at the stadium since 2000.
“Nat Bailey’s got a really long history with baseball in Vancouver,” says Jason Beck, curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. “He’s more famous as the founder of White Spot, but he got his start working in concessions at Vancouver ball parks – he was known for selling peanuts. Apparently, it didn’t matter where you were in the stands, but he could catch your dime or your nickel that you’d pay for peanuts and he’d toss you back a bag of peanuts – apparently his aim was incredible.”
Another champion for the stadium was Edmonton native and entrepreneur Harry Ornest, who obtained the PCL franchise in 1977 and spent almost as much rehabilitating the stadium, which had been abandoned and vandalized, as it had cost to build.
A curiosity of the 1950s and 1960s was “Scotchman’s Hill” on nearby Little Mountain, where fans too cheap to buy tickets would sit on their blankets with picnics and transistor radios tuned to Jim Robson’s play-by-play on CKWX radio. “And a special hello to all the shut-ins,” he would say at the beginning of each broadcast. The trees on the hillside have grown up to the point that the view of the field is blocked.
Vancouver’s longest-serving sports venue
“It’s definitely a pillar of the Vancouver sports scene,” says Beck. “And if you think about it, it’s probably the longest serving venue still in use today by a major professional club. The Canucks are playing at Rogers Arena – that’s only about 20 years old, the Lions and Whitecaps are playing at B.C. Place, you’re talking 40, 35 years old. Pacific Coliseum is still being used by what was the Giants, but that’s from the late 60s. So [Nat Bailey Stadium is] approaching 70 years – that’s pretty impressive. And I don’t think people realize that stadium is that old. It’s still in use, it’s still looking good.”
- Michael Kluckner. Vancouver The Way It Was. Whitecap Books, 1984. p. 231,
- Tom Hawthorn. “Ball Thou Art Mine,” in The Greater Vancouver Book, p. 586;
- Bill Dwyre. “Sports Figure Harry Ornest Dies at 75,” Los Angeles Times. July 22, 1998.
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