Ontario Place

Our History

Our History


Ontario Place Through The Years

Ontario Place is an internationally-acclaimed cultural, leisure and entertainment parkland located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The complex extends throughout three man-made islands along the Lake Ontario waterfront.

Ontario Place opened in May 1971 and featured a five pod pavilion complex, The Forum, pedal boats, a marina, restaurants and the world's first permanent IMAX® theatre, Cinesphere.


Introduction

Ontario Place was built as a showcase for the Province of Ontario that would replace the Government of Ontario building at the CNE and take advantage of what was then an under-developed waterfront area.

Construction started on March 17, 1969 and took an estimated 1.5 million person hours of labour to build at a cost of $29M.

The original park consisted of three man-made islands connected by picturesque bridges and walkways with the Pods, or Pavilion, complex and the geodesic dome of the Cinesphere as the focal points.

The park initially encompassed 96 acres of which 51 acres were land fill.

The gate first opened to the public on May 22, 1971.


The 1970's

The Pods/Cinesphere complex and restaurants dotted the rather spartan landscape that consisted of the IMAX theatre, South Marina, Forum, a reflecting pool, pedal boat rentals, boutiques, a number of lookout points and promenades, and the precursor to the Children's Village.

There was a prime parking lot available and massive amounts of land on the east island were bare, awaiting future development.

The first brochure presented Ontario Place as a "work in progress" that would be ever-changing and have something for everyone.

Admission in that first year was $1 for adults and $.50 for children.

Ontario Place started to develop a better sense of identity through the introduction of key award-winning attractions.

Children's Village, to be one of our most memorable former features was opened in 1972.

The following year, the Waterplay area was introduced along with an Alice in Wonderland themed mini golf course.

The Marina became a destination for Great Lake watercraft and the Forum played host to the finest in Canadian talent under a translucent vinyl canopy. The canopy was replaced by the signature copper roof in 1978.


The 1980's

The park had undergone a substantial transformation with the introduction of a number of new attractions aimed at giving every member of the family something to enjoy.

Canada's first waterslide was opened in August of 1978 in the south east parking lot of Ontario Place pushing the attractions development right to the water's edge.

The West Island reflecting pool was filled in with concrete and a refrigeration system to furnish an ice skating rink.

In 1979 the rink was opened in summer as a roller rink offering a unique hangout for post disco-era teens.

In 1980 the government constructed an ambitious display to specifically feature northern Ontario, the display known as Ontario North consisted of 7 concrete silos linked by walkways on the western shore of the park; and included a focus on the wildlife of Northern Ontario. The theme would be carried further in coming years as further development of the West Island occurred.

Finally the bumper boats were introduced in 1980 to begin a trend in waterfront utilization started with the original pedal boats in 1971.

The early '80s marked a time when the park had established itself as the waterfront destination for a concert or day out with the family.

Future Pod opened in 1982 in Pod 5 to feature displays and exhibits in technology, communications and energy; funded by the Government of Ontario it was where Canadians got their first glimpse of a full-sized replica of the Canadarm. This Pod would undergo many changes including being occupied for a short time by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

In 1981 a 70mm film festival was introduced at Cinesphere making use of the theatre for non-IMAX films for the first time.

In 1983 the first landfill project since the original construction was completed adding a third parking lot to the eastern shore.

In 1984 a massive theming and reconstruction of the west island saw the introduction of the Wilderness Adventure Ride, a fully automated flume ride complete with 40 foot splashdown.

To support the northern Ontario theme the roller rink was transformed into the Waterfall Showplace and all restaurants and boutiques on the island took on a northern name and flavour including Muskeg Pete's Main Street and Points North. The west entrance also underwent a facelift with an expansion of the interior plaza and ticket and security facilities; these facilities would be much needed in coming years as we introduced major events to the site.


The 1990's

In 1991 Ontario place celebrated its 20th anniversary and introduced a free admission program that lasted until 1996.

In 1991 the Festival Stage was built to add an important venue for children's programming close to the Children's Village.

In 1992 Bungee jumping made a brief appearance at Ontario Place.

A more permanent addition to the park was the start of our waterpark development in 1993 with the opening of the Hydrofuge.

1993 marked the year we introduced the Play All Day Pass a pay one price package that allowed visitors to use the attractions throughout the day for one low price.

Ontario North silos were revitalized by a talented group of designers whose efforts resulted in the Megamaze.

1994 Ontario Place ceased operating the Trillium restaurant making way for redevelopment of 2 pods into the Atlantis complex.

Finally in 1994 our largest silo was refitted to house SeaTrek, a motion simulator ride built by Simex of Toronto.

Our biggest and perhaps most controversial, construction feat took place over the winter of 1994/95 with the demolition of the old Forum to make way for the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre seats 16,000 as compared to 8,000 in the old venue and, though the caliber of entertainment is of the highest standard, there are still those who lament the passing of an entertainment institution.

In 1995 the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre opened to rave reviews winning the RPM magazine award for Best New Concert Venue.

The expansion of the waterpark continued with the demolition of the old waterslides making way for Rush River Raft Ride, a 5 person raft experience that winds its way down an 8 story tower and hillside.

In 1996 Cool Hoops and Whiz Kids added much needed critical mass for the very popular Play All Day Pass.

1997 marked the year pay as you go attractions pricing went out in favour of the Play All Day Pass.

As well the waterpark continued to grow with 2 new waterslides, the Pink Twister and Purple Pipeline rounding out the mix.

In 1998 the Aquajet Racers were introduced.


The 2000's

We introduced heat to the water slides allowing for earlier and later use of the waterslides in the waterpark.

Simex introduced a new simulator ride entitled MARS.

Grossology: a display highlighting features of the human body was featured in the pods.

Celebrated the start of the 30th Anniversary season on May 19, 2001.

Constructed an elevator for better accessibility to the pods.

Introduced new branded restaurants.

South Beach volleyball complex introduced - leagues and another venue for special events.

Soak City waterpark expanded to include the restaurant and bar concept to the area.

The 2000s have seen an increase in “Heritage Days” at the park, celebrating the diverse cultures that make our province such an exciting place to live.

In 2003, Go Zone, a major new redevelopment of the West Island was unveiled. Go Zone includes exciting attractions such as H2O Generation Station, a giant outdoor climbing structure, the Atom Blaster, with two levels of foam ball fun, and Micro Kids- Ontario Place's specially-designed attraction for toddlers.

In 2004, we introduced the award winning “Guaranteed Weather” program, giving guests a free day at Ontario Place if they purchased a Play All Day Pass® and it rained for an hour during their visit.

The motion simulator ride was renamed The FX Adventure Theatre in 2006, and featured the movie Ecozone, a journey through the eyes of earth’s animals that educated guests on environmental responsibility.

In 2006, the world-class Rogers Chinese Lantern Festival graced Ontario Place’s west island. This evening event celebrating Chinese culture and artistry expanded the park’s regular programming and was such a success that it was extended through 2008.

2009 saw enhancements to the Ontario Place section of the Martin Goodman Trail. These improvements provide a more direct and user-friendly bike route, by redirecting traffic through a singular entrance to Ontario Place.

In 2009, the Event Tent in Market Square was taken down and replaced with Heritage Square. This entertainment expanse provides guests with an optimal area to enjoy much of Ontario Place’s special events and entertainment while improving sightlines through the park.

The FX Adventure Theatre unveiled a new film in 2009 in Escape from Dino Island. This exciting ride takes guests on a journey to save “Tony,” the Planet’s only remaining T-Rex.


In 2010

Ontario Place, in partnership with The Ministry of Tourism, announces a Request for Information on July 15, 2010 to identify potential long term development opportunities for Ontario Place.

The MyOntarioPlace.com website is introduced as part of the Request for Information. It was an online forum to engage the general public and gather their ideas about the future of Ontario Place. Over 1, 200 ideas were submitted.

4D Ontario attraction arrives at Ontario Place in the summer of 2010. This attraction was first launched at Ontario House during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Ontario Place celebrates several Heritage Days such as the Festival of Fire Fireworks celebration, The Scotiabank Caribana Festival, and Muslim Heritage Weekend.

The Parade of Sail is a fleet of majestic tall ships sailing past Ontario Place. Ceremonies included cannon blasts, foreign anthems, colour commentary and crew salutes.

$20.00 Tuesdays was introduced from Canada Day to Labour Day, where guests can purchase a play all day pass for only $20.00

Ontario Place breaks into social media on April 22, 2010 through the use of Facebook, Twitter and a YouTube channel.