Uncovering a Brief History Of Molson Park
There was a time, not that long ago, when the name ‘Barrie’ would regularly feature on tour merch from some of the world’s most popular musical performers. Molson Park was a regular haunt on Canadian tours, usually slotted in after a Toronto gig before heading west.
We know it now as Park Place. But for almost 20 years, it was a destination for concert goers and music heads from all over the country. And it’s remembered fondly by virtually everyone who took in a show there. (Although some recollections may be a bit more hazy than others)
Read on as we take a quick trip back to relive the backstory of Barrie’s most famous outdoor venue…
Uncovering a Brief History Of Molson Park
Before the park, there was a brewery. An independent beer producer called Formosa Spring Brewery. In 1967 the company, then located in Formosa, Ontario, needed to expand their operation, and bought up 597 acres of farmland from the city to establish a new bottling dispensary.
In 1974, Molson’s purchased the land and brewery. They set up a parkland, baseball diamond, and added a drive-through beer store for cottage country travelers.
Becoming A Venue
In 1987, Edgefest (the concert series originated by Toronto’s 102.1 The Edge) was looking for a new open-air venue to support large acts. After considering Downsview Park and Cayuga Speedway, as well as a farmer’s field in Oakville, organizers settled on Molson Park. In an effort to motivate fans to drive the 90km to Barrie, the 1987 Edgefest sold tickets for just $1.02.
With an attendance of 25,000 people, the 1987 Edgefest demonstrated Molson Park’s power as a venue for large scale music festivals. Many Toronto-based festivals began to follow suit, as did artists undertaking tours in North America.
The roster of bands who came through the city to shred guitar at the Park on Mapleview Drive, was a veritable who’s who of bygone era’s hottest tickets.
Pearl Jam, Green Day, Neil Young, The Beach Boys, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth, Tool, Deep Purple, Verve Pipe, Canned Heat, Motley Crue, The Ramones, Marilyn Manson, Fats Domino, Offspring, Sheryl Crow, Journey, Radiohead, Silverchair, Joan Jett and even The Monkees all played Molson Park during it’s heyday.
And that’s to say nothing of the top flight Canadian talent who hit the stage. Bryan Adams, the Barenaked Ladies, Tragically Hip, Our Lady Peace, Stompin’ Tom, Jeff Healey, and Blue Rodeo were all here on a regular basis. Gord Downie of the Hip is said to have burned his boots during a performance in the late 90s. Nickleback was another frequent visitor, although you’d be hard pressed to meet anyone who will ever admit to paying for tickets to see them.
Interested in more Barrie music history? Check out a Brief History of Barrie’s Music Hall A Brief History Of Barrie’s Music Hall
Yet it was the summer when Molson Park really came to life, and loudly. There was no less than one summer festival or show at the park every year throughout the ’90s and into the 2000s.
That included high profile fests like Warped Tour, Lollapalooza and Live 8. The Mariposa Folk Festival, now hosted in Orillia, was housed at Molson Park from 1984 until 1991.
Further, plenty of world tours planned stopovers at the park. That included Oasis for Morning Glory, Green Day’s American Idiot, the Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape, Neil Young’s Broken Arrow, and Pearl Jam’s Yield.
The gigs and festivals continued to arrive, until 2007, when the lights went down for the last time. There would be no encore.
Molson Park Today
There are scant few reminders of the mighty concert venue today. You can see a bit of the chain-link fence near Churchill Drive, and the small hut that was the on-site parking hub.
Park Place did incorporate the musical history of the area into their mini street names; Concert Way and Live Eight Way are among the small tributes around the plaza. And there are occasional smaller scale live music performances in front of the sprawling fire place that sits in the middle of the shopping centres.
Yet nothing even remotely close to the power and prestige of a Molson Park concert.
Uncovered Molson Park Facts
First major show: Edgefest ’87, with the Pursuit of Happiness, Blue Rodeo and the Spoons.
Biggest Show: Canada Day 1993, when at least 50,000 piled in to see Van Halen, Vince Neil and Kim Mitchell.
Last show: The final concert to be held at Molson Park was the Warped Tour on Aug. 11, 2007, featuring Bad Religion.