Revitalizing Ontario Place 40 years later

For 40 years, Ontario Place has stood on the Toronto waterfront as an attraction for visitors around the world. First conceived at the Montreal Expo ‘67, in a bid to bring the Olympic Games to Toronto, construction commenced in March 1969 despite losing to Montreal to make the under-developed waterfront more appealing.

Costing $29 million to build, the original design of the 96-acre park featured three man-made islands, five-pavilion pods, the dome-shaped IMAX theatre The Cinesphere, and concert venue The Forum (now known as The Molson Amphitheatre) as the park’s main attractions.

When it opened May 22, 1971, Ontario Place attracted 2.5 million visitors in their first year with admission being just a dollar for adults and 50 cents for children. As the park developed, many new attractions such as the Children’s Village and a waterplay area were added.

This year’s 40th anniversary marks a special milestone for the park, which has become a staple attraction for visitors like Yvonne Speed, who have been coming back every year since 1998.

Attracted to its scenery, architecture and entertainment, a typical trip to Ontario Place for Speed’s family includes bike rides and playing at the waterpark.

“I like the vast areas where you can just sit and have a picnic. Just being on the lake is nice and fresh and a little bit of a getaway,” Speed says.

Speed, who is also a mother of a four-year-old named Gabriel, says her son loves Ontario Place. From the moment it opens for the summer to months after it closes, Gabriel will always be asking to go back.

“He is thrilled. Any day we get to go to Ontario Place, he loves it. And I do too. For us, it’s an adventure,” Speed says.

But being a long time visitor of the park, Speed, 41, says she hasn’t seen a lot of changes and admits it has gotten a little worn down over the years.

“I do love the place, as much as it has fallen a little bit,” she says.

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