GHOST TRACK: Oakwood Stadium
In 1951, stock car racing racing in the city of Toronto became extremely popular with the opening of Oakwood Stadium. Rather than having to drive an hour or more out of town to old airstrips, drivers could compete at 1/4 mile dirt oval at the intersection of Oakwood Avenue and St. Clair Avenue. Even spectators could take the 512 TTC streetcar to see the races.
Oakwood Stadium was in the middle of a residential subdivision of what is now called Little Italy, and as expected, noise bylaws were an issue. The city of Toronto issued their maximum $25 fines each for by law violations, but with a thousand fans paying $1.00 per adult and $0.25 per child, the track operated profitably despite the problem with city hall.
Oakwood Stadium the advertised their races running ‘rain or shine’ and much of the 1951 season was run in the rain or more accurately, in mud. Track owners wanted to pave the dirt oval, but only completed the turn. Competitors had to contend with mud on the straights, then on asphalt in the corners.
Other race promoters noticed the crowds (and money) that Oakwood Stadium was bringing in, and wanted in on the lucrative racing business. The CNE Grandstand had hosted races since the 1920’s and was going to launch a stock car series in 1952 to run weekly at Exhibition Park down by Lake Ontario. Some racing historians claim that management of CNE Stadium pressured to City of Toronto to shut down Oakwood Stadium so their series would be more successful. Others believe Oakwood Stadium was shut down specifically because of the noise by-laws. Regardless, by 1952, the track was closed, the land sold to investors, and Oakwood Stadium racing promoters created a new race facility, outside the city limits (Pinecrest Speedway). The CNE Stock Car Series launched in 1952 and was a success for years.
For almost two years, Oakwood Stadium provided urban Toronto race fans the opportunity to see short-track racing in the city. But considering those poor families who’s yards backed against the race track, it was inevitable that Oakwood Stadium would be short-lived. Just another one of Toronto’s long-forgotten ghost tracks.
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